7 December 2023

Kiama's new wine bar brings a twist to the traditional dining experience

| Keeli Royle
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Melanie and Michael from Cin Cin Wine Bar.

Melanie and Michael said they created the style of dining that they wanted to experience themselves. Photo: Keeli Royle.

A new bar is coming to Kiama, bringing unique wines and delicious sharing platters.

Cin Cin (pronounced ‘chin chin’) is the latest addition to the coastal town’s growing bar and restaurant scene and aims to promote sharing and grazing as a great alternative to a sit-down meal.

Owners Michael Bowden and Melanie Allen-Clare captured the multicultural influences from their lives to create a variety of sharing boards that include something for every appetite.

“It’s not about coming in and sitting down for a plate of food,” Melanie said.

“It’s about grabbing a platter, grabbing a bottle of wine, grabbing your friends and sitting down and enjoying yourselves.

“And you can add on to that as well, so we’ll have little plates of things that are already on the boards and the platters if you want extra things to make it a bit more of a meal.”

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The pair hopes to tap into a gap in the market with its menu of items like cheese boards, charcuterie boards, a ploughman’s platter and plates stacked with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean tasters.

“We were always struggling to find somewhere to go just to have a wine and just sit down and pick at some stuff rather than going out for a full meal,” Melanie said.

“It’s hard, you can go somewhere and you can go to a place that’s more of a bar, and you might get a cheese board or a charcuterie board there but you’re only going to get the one, and sometimes you feel like a little bit of everything and you can’t get that.”

Both the food and the wines were inspired by their surroundings, and the name ‘Cin Cin’, which means ‘cheers’ or ‘salute’ is also a nod to global influences.

“It’s a bit of a throwback because Michael’s got part Italian heritage and we’ve both come from very multicultural areas growing up. Nearly everybody we knew was from somewhere else so we’ve always liked different foods, different wines and things like that from different areas,” Melanie said.

While the food is a draw card, the wine is where Melanie and Michael’s real passion lies, and the pair hope that they can help others expand their horizons.

“Just trying to find things that you’re not going to find everywhere, and source some different wines, more unusual types of grape varieties, maybe things from other countries, just to make it a more interesting wine list than what you might get at your standard restaurant as well,” Melanie said.

“Also to educate people on wines a bit more, whenever we do go out, we’re always looking for that outlier, the wine that we haven’t had,” Michael added.

“We’re also throwing around the idea of having like a wine flight where they can try a number of different wines in small amounts and then get a bottle of that or next time they come know that they can safely order it and are going to like it.”

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It’s been a long time coming for Michael, who has spent more than 25 years in roles across the industry and even teaching hospitality at Nowra TAFE.

“I’ve managed pubs, clubs, worked in five-star hotels and operated my own bistro, so I’ve been in the industry quite a long time and I’ve seen a number of different ways of doing things,” he said.

“The desire to have my own little place has always been there, it’s been burning, and we got this opportunity and thought why not?”

But it was a mix of timing and luck that brought them into the space.

“We were friends with Bruce and Jamie, who used to own the Art Bar here, and we both worked with them a little here and there and about a year ago they sold the bar and we were interested at the time but missed out on the opportunity,” Michael said.

“And then about four weeks ago the opportunity reared its head again.”

Though it was a quick turnaround, the risk paid off, and last week’s soft launch was highly successful. The official opening takes place this Friday 8 December, when the space will be fully decked out and will even include works on exhibit by local artist Gitte Backhausen.

They hope that the space will help meet the local community’s needs as desires around dining opportunities continue to develop.

“Kiama wasn’t ready for this 10 years ago but Kiama’s ready for it now,” Michael said.

For more information or to get in touch, visit the Cin Cin Wine Bar Facebook page.

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