Josh Begbie and Phil Bracey met – as many young Aussies do – in London. It was 2015 (they think) and the pair became fast friends. “You’ve got to be friends with Australians over there. The magnetic force is too strong sometimes,” Begbie tells Broadsheet.

Begbie, the former venue manager and wine buyer for Bar Liberty, and Bracey, who helped establish London hotspots P Franco, a wine bar, and restaurant Bright, bonded over a mutual love for food, wine and music. Along with their respective partners, Robyn Nethercote and Tegan Ella Hendel, they explored the UK and Europe’s food and wine scenes together.

The couples now live in Melbourne, and last night the four former Londoners opened Brico, a neighbourhood wine bar in Carlton North.

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“It really did start with jokes,” says Begbie of the group opening a venue together, “but over the year those jokes became less and less.” Begbie and Nethercote came back to Melbourne in 2016, and when Bracey and Hendel moved back to Australia at the beginning of last year, he says it was a “no-brainer”.

The couples have recruited former Public Wine Shop head chef Simon Ball-Smith to oversee the Brico food offering. He has created an extremely of-the-moment opening menu. There are classic wine bar snacks including Sydney rock oysters with a white pepper mignonette, or fresh baguette from Brunswick’s Copenhagen-inspired bakery Iris served with cultured butter. More substantial plates include panisse (French chickpea fritters); cured sardines with cucumber and green chilli; pippies with butter beans, jamon and sherry; and grilled ox tongue with potatoes and horseradish. To finish there are cheeses and an olive oil cake.

While there are a few classic cocktails and digestifs, the drinks focus at Brico is on wine. The list will focus on wines from producers with sustainable farming and winemaking practices, but not necessarily ones that most people would necessarily think of when using the term “natural wine”.

“We don’t love where a lot of people have gone with natural wines over the years, where it’s been quite easy to be a little dirty or funky or esoteric for the point of being esoteric,” says Bracey. “We’re fans of more simple flavours,” Begbie adds.

“Natural wine isn’t just cloudy funky stuff,” says Begbie. “When I first experienced [natural wines], probably at least 10 years ago, it was the total opposite, it was all about that purity and freshness and vibrancy.” So the Brico list will focus on wines with these qualities.

The wine bar is in a corner building that was most recently home to Luke Bresnan’s Little Andorra, and in the ’80s and ’90s housed legendary chef Tansy Good’s restaurant Tansy’s.

For now, the venue seats 30, including the 10 bar seats. In time the group plans to open the leafy 20-seat courtyard and convert the building’s second storey into a private dining space. There are also plans to open for lunch service as soon as the team can get a liquor licence approved to start at noon.

Brico
555 Nicholson Street, Carlton North
No phone

Hours:
Wed to Sat 5pm–late
Sun 2pm–6pm

bricomelbourne.com
@brico.melbourne