Wining and Dining hotspots
Fitzrovia – the new kid on the block in St Kilda
Chef Paul Jewson (ex-Outpost, South Yarra) has teamed up with business partner and experienced maitre'd Marco Pugnaloni to open Fitzrovia, the latest dining establishment to arrive on Fitzroy Street, St Kilda.
The restaurant’s name is not just a clever play on its location in Fitzroy Street, but harks back to the infamous neighbourhood of Fitzrovia in the West End of London where the owners once lived, a bohemian and artistic enclave that was once home to writers such as Virginia Woolf, George Bernard Shaw, Joe Orton and Arthur Rimbaud.
Branded a ‘fine food republic’, the restaurant which has been established on the site of the old Waldorf Diner celebrates the blend of inspirations that Paul and Marco have gathered from their travels around the world. The hearty menu focuses on seasonal produce and covers modern British cuisine, provincial Italian influences and Mediterranean flavours right through to African and Moorish Spice. Fitzrovia also offers gourmet picnic hampers, priced at $75 per person, for that perfect day out at St Kilda Beach or the nearby Albert Park.
Rue de Fleurus opens in Gertrude Street
Taking over the prime Gertrude Street location previously occupied by Claypots, Rue de Fleurus offers a convivial drinking experience with a smattering of art and culture on the side. A joint venture from hospitality guru Wayne Markus, designer Aaron McKenzie and Claypots owner Renan Goksin, the bar takes its name from the Parisian Street where writer Gertrude Stein once ran her own salon.
An upright piano and exhibition of Nicholas Jones’ unique book sculptures adds a creative touch to the candle-lit front room while the back room (past the cosy bar) is the perfect place for an after dinner drink.
The reasonably priced drinks list offers a series of classic cocktails (Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Negroni), a one-pager of mainly local wines and a few localised concoctions such as the Brunswick Shuffle (gin, rosewater, lime, mint, sugar). There’s also a petite food menu of tasty bar snacks including cheese croquettes, meatballs in rustic tomato sauce and stuffed calamari.
Quirky themed bars hit Melbourne – LuWow, Little Red Pocket and The Bottom End
Melbourne bars are known not only for their obscure locations but also their highly original approach to interior design and theming. This trend is set to continue with the recent launches of new tiki-themed bar the LuWow, understated Japanese-inspired watering hole Little Red Pocket and Americana hybrid pub-disco-dinner, The Bottom End.
LuWoW, 62-70 Johnston St, Fitzroy
LuWow is Gilligan’s Island in bar form: cocktails and live performance are playfully served up in a tropical kitsch interior at ‘the relaxed tempo of a South Seas holiday’.
It’s the first Melbourne venue for Josh Collins, a West Australian with a background in set design, who also owns the Hula Bula bar and the Deville’s Pad in Perth.
In the venue’s front room, styled as a traditional tiki ‘Island village’, patrons relax in cosy booths resembling bamboo huts decorated with stone deities and leafy tropical ephemera while lounge exotica soundtrack plays in the background. The ‘castaway chic’ continues in the back room, referred to as the Forbidden Temple, with sunset-themed wallpaper, Hindu gods and glowing lights and skulls on sticks. Open on Friday and Saturday, the Forbidden Temple features live bands, gogo dancers, DJs playing vintage dance music and Polynesian-style performances.
Tropical fruity cocktails, served with every possible garnish and decoration, are the main focus of the drinks list. Choose from the classic Mai Tai or take it up a notch with the Ti’ Punch (Rhum Agricole, lime juice and sugar cane syrup served in a tiki bowl built for two), ‘bikini bottom’ or the ‘Cocktail of Doom’ (sip at your own peril). A selection of brews including Mountain Goat beer are also available.
Little Red Pocket, Mezzanine level, 422 Little Collins St, Melbourne
Former nightclub premises are the latest city spaces being repurposed by Melbourne’s hospitality entrepreneurs with the old Icon nightclub making way for hot Thai eatery Chin Chin and stylish Japanese bar Little Red Pocket, now colonising the Little Collins site formerly occupied by The Balcony Bar.
Offering sake, cocktails and Izakaya snacks at night and a casual Japanese lunch menu during the day, Little Red Pocket is a worthy addition to Melbourne’s network of chic Asian-inspired drinking dens which also includes Double Happiness, Golden Monkey, Manchuria, New Gold Mountain, Nihonshu, Robot, Seamstress, and Silk Road.
Run by a team that includes an ex-Nobu chef and accomplished mixologist David Van Iersal, who previously managed the Red Hummingbird and Emerald Peacock bars, the venue has an elegant and understated interior reminiscent of traditional Japanese sake houses. There is a choice of high bar tables to perch on, cushioned seats and booths as well as a discreet outdoor balcony smoking area.
The drinks list, created by Van Iersal, is a key point of difference with playfully named cocktails made fromJapanese spirits such as Jumai Sake, Umeshu, and Shochu, to name a few. Some of the more colourful highlights include the Lychee Longtime (sake, lychee, apple and rose), the Ginga Ninja (house-made lemongrass and chilli infused sake, lengthened with ginger beer, lemon and vanilla) and the Mr Miyagi (Yamaki 12 year old whisky, raspberry puree and Framboise, lengthened with cranberry juice and balanced off with a touch of lemon).
The food menu includes a lunchtime selection of bento boxes and udon soups as well as an all-day-and-night snacking menu of ‘Japanese tapas’ including prawn tempura, chicken riblets and beef tataki.
The Bottom End - 579 little Collins St, Melbourne
The Bottom End is the new venture from Melbourne’s original laneway bar pioneer, Michael Delany-Korabelnikova, owner of Sorry Grandma! and the sorely missed Honky Tonks, who has recently taken some Melbourne-style magic to Sydney transforming The Flinders and The Norfolk hotels.
Billed as part diner, part pub and part disco, the Bottom End is an irony-heavy celebration of American culture, in all its ‘trash-tastic’ glory.
With a 24 hour license, a rotating selection of DJs, and a fascinating interior fit out which extends to the bathrooms, the Bottom End is the perfect all-night party place.
The deliberately mismatched furnishings and outlandish styling of the bar’s roomy interior has prompted numerous colourful descriptions from bloggers and online commentators including ‘somewhere between feudal period glamour and the giant electric keyboard that Tom Hanks dances on in Big’; ‘1970′s playboy penthouse’ and ‘hipsters version of Happy Days’.
The food menu offers the sort of tasty goodness that only the deep-fryer can deliver: four kinds of crinkle cut fries, deep fried mac and cheese balls, extra-large burgers on brioche, buffalo wings, the ‘po’ boy’ (prawn and chorizo ‘hero’ sandwich with spicy Creole sauce) as well as an ‘only-for-those-in-the-know’ free tasting plate with a schooner of Carlton beer (daily from 4 to 6pm).
The drinks list doesn’t take itself seriously offering three kinds of wine (‘cheap’, ‘reasonable’ and ‘good’) and cheeky cocktails such as the ‘Largerita’ (beer, rum, lime and agave), the Britney Spears (Marshmallow Vodka, Lena Banana and Blue Curacao), the Single Mother (Southern Comfort, red wine and ginger beer) and, just for good measure, the Australian Martini, complete with a smear of Vegemite, a bright green pickled onion and a slice of Coon cheese.
Looking for other bars that illustrate Melbourne’s distinctive style?
Top five bars reconstructed out of an industrial or derelict space – The Resurrection, Riverland, 1000£ Bend, The Croft Institute, Section 8
Top five rooftop bars – Madame Brussels, Red Hummingbird, Rooftop Bar, Siglo and Campari House
Top five bars featuring installation art/projections – Workshop Bar, Loop Bar, Horse Bazaar, The Artery, Robot Bar
Top five bars paying homage to bygone eras – Bar Americano, The Everleigh (Prohibition-era speakeasy), The Attic at Black Pearl (Madman Gentleman’s Lounge), The Berlin Bar (East and West Berlin) and 24 Moons (the modern day speakeasy)
Other food news:
Dining and wining hotspots open at Melbourne’s new waterside promenade
Three new venues have just opened in South Wharf Promenade, a new major dining destination in Melbourne’s Docklands that officially launches in December.
The Boatbuilders Yard is a unique combination of a café, pub and bar with an expansive outdoor deck serving meals from morning to night and eyecatching design by Six Degrees Architects. Inspired by the relaxed and informal European-style eating and drinking, the venue has been opened by hospitality stalwarts Richie Ludbrook (Northcote Social Club) and Dave Sharry (Rooftop Bar) whose previous joint ventures have included the Six Degrees designed Riverland Bar and Café and the Wye River General Store, in partnerhip with chef Rodney Shah (Park View Hotel St Kilda, Builders Arms in Fitzroy and Syracuse in Melbourne).
Melbourne Public and Citizen, which are run by The Darcy Group, are the other two venues that have opened doors in South Wharf Promenade. Melbourne Public is a sophisticated take on your ‘local’, featuring quality pub meals, a formal dining room, and an outdoor terrace serving lunch, dinner and cocktails. Citizen is a café offering specialty roasted coffee, breakfast and lunch.
Michael Lambie, the former executive chef at Taxi Dining Room, has launched The Smith, a new global eatery and bar in Prahran. The space features a dining room with an open kitchen and a bar with flexible spaces for drinking and snacking. The menu offers all day dining and grazing until late, embracing a world outlook with dishes that cover European classics, South American flavours and a breadth of Asian styles.