The name's a dead giveaway but bear with me on this: when we visit convenience stores, it tends to be for the convenience. Whenever you rush in to grab a quick snack, an easy meal or an ice cream, the quality and provenance of what you rush back out with seconds later is unlikely to be the first thing on your mind.
However, convenience and quality needn’t be exclusive, and that’s the aim at Harold’s Food & Liquor.
Located in Elsternwick, in Melbourne’s inner south-east, the store’s approach is defined by a focus on quality as much as it on making busy lives that little bit easier. Opening in the second half of 2022, it set about achieving this by bringing a unique approach to a city with no shortage of craft bottleshops.
Yes, you will find fridges full of craft beer and shelves lined with wine, but you’ll also find a curated selection of meals to heat as soon as you reach home and crack that first beer or pour your first glass of wine. Or let’s say you’re heading to a picnic and stop in to pick up a mixed six of beers to share – take a moment or two more and you’ll soon have a basket stuffed with the makings of the perfect grazing plate.
The idea behind the store comes from owner Cameron Smart, who’d been a fan of craft beer for years while working in other forms of retail. When COVID came along, Cameron decided a change was in order so, in 2021, he started searching for a place in which to bring his passion to life.
The leafy green ‘burb of Elsternwick was always the focus: the area’s filled with cafés, restaurants, young families and professionals who may well share his fondness for craft beer and quality wine but don’t have the same range of options when it comes to sourcing such treats compared with those living further north.
And within this area it’s hard to think of a better spot for Cameron’s vision to come to fruition than Harold’s home than the heart of the Glen Huntly shopping strip, within close proximity of the train station. After all, it makes it a natural spot between work and home, or a movie at Classic Cinemas and home, or home and your mate’s place.
The name comes from Cameron’s grandfather, whose claim to fame in the world of booze was that he visited every single pub in New Zealand. We hope this legendary pub crawler won’t mind us saying that his name seems to capture perfectly the bottleshop’s old-fashioned nature.
Sure, nothing about the beer selection, wine or light, bright and modern space is old, but the welcoming environment and eagerness of the Harold’s staff to help customers pick exactly the right drinks (and food pairing if required) reminds me of how old milk bars once served as community hubs.
When it comes to beer, you’ll find around 150 of them behind fridge doors; many are the best you can get your hands on from Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs; plenty come from other parts of the country and Cameron’s native New Zealand. Both the spirits and wines are just as carefully curated, with a wide selection of natural wines alongside seltzers and ready-to-drink cocktails.
The food selection, meanwhile, includes quality snacks like Chappy’s Chips, cheeses, mustards, sauces, dumplings, gourmet pies, pasta, curries, pizza and ice cream. It’s the kind of lineup that ensures if you're wondering what’s for dinner while picking up a mixed six, your question will soon be answered.
It also guarantees that, at Harold’s Food & Liquor, convenience and craft can indeed by synonyms.