New convertible facade, new bar, new kitchen, new hidden cool room, new floors, new menu.
What’s remained the same at Bomba’s fifth-storey rooftop bar? “That’s the same fridge,” says Jesse Gerner, director of Tigerbird Group (also Anada, Park Street), pointing to one corner of the bar. “And a bit of that stainless-steel bench.”
For the past five years, the rooftop bar – an elevator ride above the Lonsdale Street Spanish restaurant – has been a tight, busy, vermouth-focused penthouse with one of Melbourne’s best bar snacks – bone-marrow toast.
Four years of planning, four months of renovations and one million dollars later, the small space now with impressive city views has a 120-person standing capacity, including a fully convertible terrace with retractable roof and drop-down windows.
“There was a fair bit of craning as we’re five storeys up. We had to block off all of Lonsdale street on a Saturday [to bring in] all the structures and steelwork,” says Gerner.
The bar’s wall-mounted projector will soon beam black and white silent Spanish films on the exterior wall of Her Majesty’s Theatre.
A lot is different, but the square-footage remains the same. And for Gerner, that meant making an effort to reduce single-use glass and plastic.
“We don’t have bin space up here,” he says. “I’ve seen the waste from this place – you’ve got a busy Friday night and there’s eight recycle wheelie bins full of bottles.”
To reduce that, Gerner has been talking to Sam Gordon of Robert Gordon pottery about melting down Bomba’s glass waste and upcycling it into custom tapas plates. In the meantime, they’ve put a bottle and tin crusher under the bar.
Eight taps pouring local, independent beers have replaced what used to be a single keg. Because of the reusability of kegs in general, Bomba is using them for more than just beer. On tap you’ll find cocktails including sangria, and a vermouth-based fresh-ginger highball.
The wine list is mostly Spanish and Australian, and only from independent winemakers.
Executive chef Andrew Fisk’s menu takes inspiration from a longstanding Barcelona concert hall called Bikini, famous for its toasties (also called “bikinis”).
At the Bomba rooftop there are six versions to choose from, including one filled with confit chicken, pickles and Mahon, a hard Spanish cow’s cheese; another with banana, mascarpone and dulce de leche; and the classic with jamon iberico, which Fisk has topped with black truffle.
Along with the rest of the menu, you can get bikinis until 1am.
You’ll also find beloved originals like the so-sticky, so-gooey, 12-hour Pedro Ximenez pork jowl, alongside new snacky and substantial additions.
“You don’t often get to work in a place for ages, [ask] what works well, what doesn’t work well, and then have a crack at again,” says Shane Barrett, who runs the group’s alcohol-import arm.
The menu is homey, rich and exactly the type of food a Mediterranean-focused rooftop bar ought to serve when it opens in the middle of winter.
House bread served with nine-plus-score Wagyu cecina (cured beef) is made with a grape yeast Gerner cultivated 11 years ago. The result is an extra-chewy loaf that calls on your triceps to pull apart. It comes in handy for other plates too.
“We’ve tried to pare it back to some real traditional dishes, like a baked chorizo with aioli,” Gerner explains. The sausage is cooked in the same dish it’s served in to preserve the fat – perfect for dipping bread.
103 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
(03) 9662 1558
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on July 19, 2018. Menu items may have changed since publication.