Years after visiting a dive bar in Paris’s northeast, Maz Salt couldn’t get it out of his head. The owner of Section 8, Ferdydurke and Brunswick East burger joint The B.East, wanted to recreate that effortlessly casual vibe in his hometown: a local haunt for a diverse range of people, where the cool didn’t feel forced.
Belleville is a fusion of bar, cafe, restaurant and live entertainment venue, housed in a historic multi-storey building off Chinatown. Rather than trying to evoke other cities, as so many bars here do, Salt wants to capture the essence of Melbourne.
An enormous Brazilian rotisserie holds prime position in the kitchen, rotating up to 90 birds at any one time. The bird comes in quarter, half or whole serves, smothered in sauces from the mild house chicken gravy, to the “hot as F#@k” Liu Kang fireball. Other dishes include kimchi quesadillas and the Belleville Poutine, a serving of beer-battered chips slathered in cheese, chicken gravy and hot sauce.
Shaun Hastings (ex Gin Palace, Cookie, Section 8) heads a bar with 10 beers on tap. Australian offerings feature strongly, from the surprisingly distinguished wine list to the 25-strong cocktail list.
Slightly scuffed wooden floorboards run the large room, potted trees add a touch of greenery and the semi-circular bar is illuminated by retro glass lights. A huge mural by American artist Mike Giant is the main feature. On Friday nights and weekends the space reverberates with the steady thump of bass emanating from a large elevated DJ booth.