The notion of an Australian-themed bar just off Smith street might sound a little discordant – a hackneyed homage to jingoism on one of the counter-culture’s main drags.

In actuality, Bad Frankie is a considered, sophisticated reimagining of Australian bar culture and a nod to the trailblazers of Australian distilling.

The name is a nod of the head to early Van Diemen’s Land Governor John Franklin, the man responsible for outlawing small pot stills in the 1800s. The bar, in the space vacated by Bar Paradiso, serves more than 150 spirits from across the country and a selection of seasonal, nostalgia-inducing jaffles that are nothing like the ones you used to make when you got home from school.

A setting characterised by nuance and history sees knotted ropes and light fittings dangling ominously from above. Interior designer Sally Holbrook’s collages of images from local distilleries and the owners’ family evoke the sort of community-centric warmth usually reserved for small-town watering holes.

Nonetheless, the discerning cocktail demographic is well catered for here, with an extensive array of idiosyncratically Australian flavours. A Really Good Time; a honeycomb and vanilla syrup with Firedrum vodka and egg white, evokes all the indulgence (if not the innocence) of a Golden Gaytime. The Euco Drops martini is 666 Vodka infused with eucalyptus – a whiff of the bush for those whose dealings with eucalyptus is consigned to bedroom humidifiers.

Chef Michelle Boyle’s (Bar Ampere, Collins Quarter) jaffle menu provides savoury and sweet with equal measures of substance and inventiveness. Main-meal options such as the mushroom, poached chicken or braised beef line the stomach while the ANZAC and lamington flavours are appealing desserts for those with little-to-no regard for after-dinner carb counting.

Borne of owner Seb Costello’s desire to showcase the provincial at an international standard, Bad Frankie presents as a loving distillation befitting of a tasteful, modern Australia. In that, this particular Australian-themed bar may well be jettisoning the ironic for the iconic.

Bad Frankie
141 Greeves Street, Fitzroy
(03) 9078 3866

Tues to Sun 3pm–11pm