t’s become a Melbourne maxim that the harder a bar is to find the better it’s likely to be, and the newly opened Bill’s Bar in Collingwood has achieved the requisite obscurity with aplomb.
Completing the Smith Street triumvirate that began with Huxtable and, more recently, the insanely popular hangout Huxtaburger, via which you enter Bill’s Bar, the prevailing feeling at this new venue is one of having stumbled onto a private backroom party.
Find your way through the cleverly covert entrance and you’re greeted by brown leather banquettes, wooden tables, low lighting and a suitably smoky soundtrack, setting the scene for what resembles a modern day speakeasy.
But the Bill’s team is offering up the opposite of what once would have been bootleg booze at inflated prices. Top shelf liquor – think stylish single malts, aged rums and notable tequilas – is served at a flat $9. The philosophy extends to the wine, with an Enomatic setup allowing an array of interesting glass pours at affordable prices.
The menu too, designed by Huxtable chef Daniel Wilson and served out of the neighbouring Huxtaburger kitchen space, aims to offer value while evoking a playful sense of America’s Prohibition era.
Southern fried chicken ribs and pulled pork buns sit alongside a smart take on the southern staple of hush puppies – essentially a deep fried cornmeal batter –studded with plump prawns and crab meat and served with a chipotle mayo, all coming in between five and ten bucks a serve. Cured king salmon, beef short rib pancakes with kimchi and delicious devilled eggs complete the eats offering, with a nod to the menu’s Huxtable roots.
Owner Dante Ruaine is pounding the boards himself, and has again tapped his Kiwi-centric crew to ensure a continuation of the quality and quirkiness that have been hallmarks of his existing ventures.
The license only extends to 11pm currently, making it the perfect place to grab a drink while you wait for your burger or before a big night, but once the 1am extension comes through, Bill’s Bar is destined to be the new hot spot for the hospo crew and anyone else after a little Melbourne-style moonshine.
104 Smith Street, Collingwood
Tue to Sun 6pm–11pm