Bar Bambi feels like the lovechild of an NYC speak-easy and LA supper club, with some old-school Italian vibes thrown in for good measure – from the gleaming vintage Murano chandelier (with its 150 dusky pink globes) to the sweeping green marble bar and hammered-brass back bar. And then there’s the baby grand piano and the pink neon “Bar Bambi” sign above a “rock-star” private-dining area. AC/DC Lane’s latest addition, in the original Cherry Bar location, lets the good times roll.

From brothers Nick and Daniel Russian, it shares its name with – and takes inspiration from – a bar their nonno ran 80 years ago in his hometown of Trieste, in Italy’s north.

The fit-out is the collective work of Nick and Daniel, and celebrated designer David Hicks. “We wanted to do old in a new way,” says Nick. There are curves throughout with undulating dark timber-panelled walls, mission-brown velvet banquettes meeting the arches of the walls on either side of the dining area, and recessed lighting that results in a soft glow on the rendered white ceiling. Tables are topped with crisp white tablecloths, each one with a brass mushroom-shaped lamp and plush pink velvet chairs.

“For me, food is fashion,” says head chef Salvatore Giorgio (formerly of Postmistress). “So, while you have to have the staples, you also have to evolve with the times.” He’s put together an Italo-centric menu of share plates that starts with all sorts of antipasti, chargrilled lamb arrosticini (skewers) and a carbonara jaffle, then progresses to pork cotoletta on the bone, and butterflied grilled spatchcock. Or you can go entirely classic with creamy spaghetti cacio e pepe; rich, spicy vodka pasta; or a pizza from the bar menu. Soon, there’ll also be a very luxe roving trolley stocked with oysters and caviar.

Head mixologist Matt Ambler, meanwhile, has put together an extensive Negroni-focused list that includes versions made with mezcal, coffee and granita. And for group bookings, you can splash out on a majestic Negroni fountain. Other cocktail standouts include the citrusy Chinotto Fizz and the decadent Tiramisu Martini.

The wine list is a concise edit of predominantly Italian varietals, from both Aussie and Italian winemakers. There are also a few magnums listed, which befits the space.

Thursdays are piano nights, while on Fridays and Saturdays, there’ll be late-night dining and back-to-back DJ sets. And spritz Sundays will also incorporate the piano.

Nick says the focus won’t be solely on the food or the drinks or the entertainment; rather, he’s trying to strike a perfect balance between all three. For Nick, who runs and events company Together and previously owned nightclub Eve with his brother Daniel, “It’s the next evolution of nightlife trading, in our opinion … We don’t want people to feel as though they are walking into a nightclub. We want people to feel like they are walking into a sophisticated room.

“You can come for a bite to eat, and it can turn into a bit of a party later at night.”

Bar Bambi
AC/DC Lane, Melbourne

Hours:
Wed to Sat 5pm–late
Sun 12pm–late

barbambi.com.au