Dave Kerr heads down to Bar Ampere to grab some breakfast and sample the city’s best vermouth selection, all before 10am.
I write, work with and drink booze for a living. But until recently, the thought of drinking it with breakfast had never really occurred to me. Save for the odd heavily spiced bloody mary in preparation for a Sunday parental rendezvous.
I have generally defined breakfast drinkers as either alcoholics or strange beat poets that require drinking for their ‘creative process’. There was no real sense or attraction to the practice.
But as I took a breakfast meeting at Bar Ampere a little while ago, I found myself staring at the wall of vermouth and wondering how it might pair up with the tasty breakfast burger I was devouring.
I set a meeting in Bar Ampere again, this time with bar manager Ben Luzza and had chef Michelle Boyle. Before we’d even taken our seats, Luzza had poured a generous Cocchi Americano, a sweet palate cleanser, not dissimilar to Lillet. That first drink cemented that this was going to be a good idea. Starting the day with a drink or two is a revelation. But the real revelation came from the standard of food from possibly the city’s smallest kitchen. I couldn’t understand why there weren’t lines around the corner.
To start, we sat down to the famed breakfast burger. Eggs and kaiserfleisch topped with a green tomato relish, accompanied by lines of coloured salt on a metal tray help to set the tone of just how things go at Bar Ampere. Luzza poured a vintage Lillet Rouge that they’d imported into the country.
Following the burger, we simplified with the Egg Soldiers. Should be simple enough. However, Boyle has taken to giving these eggs precisely 60 minutes in the sous vide machine at 64 degrees. Egg perfection, paired up again with a trio of salts and brioche soldiers. Ben pours more, this time Maidenii, an evolving sweet vermouth conceived and created in house.
The baked bean canteen comes out. Full marks for what is probably the best-presented breakfast in the city. Concealed in a custom made tin, peel away the lid and you are greeted by beans in a tomato and chorizo sauce, doused in gruyere, with toasted sourdough on the side. Luzza, unfazed by the hour, pours again.
The finale (dictated mainly by the fact that we couldn’t eat anything more) is the poached fruit. Each fruit is separately treated in the sous vide to maximise its flavour extraction, then individually reapportioned with all the fruit and the addition of spices to once again take the sous vide treatment, before being presented at the table in the form of a warm fruit compote. Incredible, made even better by the addition of fluffy vanilla yoghurt foam. The perfectly square, house-made granola bar sitting alongside has me sold for life.
We had to finish with a little more vermouth, just for continuity. So we washed everything down with a sweet vintage vermouth from the Italian house of Cocchi ¬– delicious and perfectly paired.
This is truly one of the city’s best secrets. A bar by night that knows how to mix a good classic – and stocks an unparalleled selection of the rare and exotic aperitifs and digestifs – shouldn’t be this good at making breakfast. But Bar Ampere are the complete package.
I’m coming back to see how their regular burger stands up against their in-house pale ale during hours regarded more socially acceptable.
16 Russell Place, Melbourne
(02) 9663 7557
Mon to Fri 8am–3am