It almost seems written in the stars that a cocktail bar with a whisky focus should be planted on a lane called Malthouse. This serendipitous coming together is for the Melbourne branch of Sven Almenning’s highly acclaimed Eau De Vie.
With the Sydney bar having been open for a little under two years, it’s won a host of awards locally and received recognition globally after winning ‘World’s best new cocktail bar’ this year at the Spirited Awards in New Orleans. It’s certainly an impressive list of accolades, backed up by a consistent stream of dedicated followers scrambling to drink in the modest space that lies very discreetly at the rear of the Kirketon Hotel in Darlinghurst.
While Malthouse Lane is again a very discreet setting for the Melbourne branch, the crowds will be given one more reason to scramble to this latest iteration. The addition of a dining concept offering cocktail degustation dinners charters brave new territory, but it could just work.
The kitchen is headed by Mark Favaloro (most recently from the kitchens of Movida), a young chef hungry to make a huge impact. With the exception of Ryan Clift and Matt Bax’s revolution at Singapore’s Tippling Club, no restaurateur has been able to successfully combine cocktails and dining into a cohesive concept. Eau De Vie holds promise through its pedigree, their obvious dedication and the highly premeditated design of the space. The venue holds a separate section dubbed ‘The Library’. Within, you’ll find a custom-built high table with room for 20 guests. Apart from it’s ornate construction, the real feature is an internal ice well that not only acts as a great place to keep your stem-less glassware cool, but will help to facilitate the sense of theatre that makes good cocktails great.
Speaking of which, Greg Sanderson heads up the drinks component. Former brand ambassador for Diageo’s premium ‘Reserve’ brands offering (including the likes of Ketel One, Tanqueray and Ron Zacapa Rum), Sanderson knows good booze. Throughout his tenure with Reserve, he’s also held down management roles at MurMur and Black Pearl taking both bars to win Bartender Magazine’s cocktail bar of the year. He’s amassed a talented team of bartenders and floor staff, more than capable of upholding the standards of drinks and service delivered by the Sydney flagship.
And for the uninitiated, what is it that will make these drinks worthy of so much hype and acclaim? It starts with high quality infrastructure – from ice machines, through to crystal glassware – and the freshest of ingredients. No doubt, Almenning’s extensive collection of vintage shakers and paraphernalia will be on hand to add some talking points. Then there are great classic cocktails with bartenders that make them efficiently and beyond adequately.
And the service, whether it be from the floor or directly over the bar, gives you the sense that you’re in capable hands – that someone knows what you want to drink, even when you don’t.
If you simply wander into a bar like Eau De Vie, there is no singular component that makes it worthy of your hard earned money. It’s the overall experience. There is an old hospitality saying: “People don’t notice when things are perfect, they notice when they’re not”. In that respect, be sure to take some good company so you’ve got something to focus your attention on.
We’re keen to see how Eau De Vie unravels and we’ll report back on how the astute diners of Melbourne respond to these enthusiastic groundbreakers.
Eau De Vie Melbourne
1 Malthouse Lane, CBD
Degustations begin Friday 24 November.