Partially obscured by hedges, you'd be forgiven for thinking there was nothing on the corner of Graham and Bay Streets in Port Melbourne (the address in this listing is wrong). These hedges hide a small courtyard area which would serve well as a beer garden in the warmer months. But what we're really here for is less obvious. An old building appears, beautifully lit by yellow light. So subtle and quiet, they actually have a chalk sign stating "Open". At first glance, we thought it was a chapel. Open the heavy, old doors and you're treated to an incredible scene. Candles everywhere, some light salsa music playing in the background. A staff member greets us and, being a quiet Wednesday night at 6:30pm, we almost have our pick of tables. We opt for a booth (created with church pews, another reason we thought it a chapel) over the fireplace, and we settle in and are transfixed by the wonderfully aged, almost distressed interior. A sommelier approaches and offers us drinks; he is very knowledgeable about the wines and the available beers, though few, are all quality choices. After taking our order, we sit back and marvel at the bar and its stock of interesting pieces.
We ordered the Australian mixed olives and the chorizo to start with. The olives were great, helped by the warmed oil in which they were served. The chorizo was to die for. Our mains consisted of the whole baby snapper and the Pollo Asado - half chicken. We also ordered the quinoa to accompany. All of them were superb. The fish was cooked to perfection, the chicken was spiced so that it was tantalising without being overpowering, and the quinoa? Well, after trying it, I had to admit that a quinoa dish could indeed be great! As the evening wore on and more diners arrived, the staff were never unsettled and always attentive. The service was friendly and discreet. The prices were appropriate for the quality of the food and the enchanting atmosphere. We will definitely come back to a place as good as this; at least to sample everything on the tapas menu!
My only niggle was the limited number of mains available; but really, you'd go for the tapas.
Postscript: I have read they have live music on Friday/Saturday nights. I think it would be nice, so long as it isn't too loud. Also, we asked the staff and it turns out the building used to be an old courthouse. The kitchen is situated in the old holding cells!
Finally, just a couple of corrections: the name of the place is just "Corte", and the address is 115 Bay Street Port Melbourne, not "Port" street.
Probably advisable to book ahead for nights later in the week.