Bar Savarin is named for Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, the author of the first book on gastronomy, published in 1825. It’s the creation of a group of southside hospitality folk who came together through a series of serendipitous conversations.

It’s the combined forces of Evan Georgopoulos (Bambam Deli & Discoteca), husband-and-wife team Denis Arbatov and Liz Garginian (Applehead Deli), Hugh Sanderson (Custodian Kitchen) and Christopher Keating (Grape & Grain).

In the two degrees of separation that is Melbourne hospitality, the group all knew of each other and, over the course of a month, had overlapping chats about their future plans. Sanderson, Garginian and Arbatov started discussing doing something new together. Georgopoulos mentioned to Arbatov that he wanted to sell Bambam and move into a wine-bar vibe. And Keating moved in down the road from Garginian and Arbatov and casually mentioned that he’d always wanted to own and run a bar. These chats happily brought the group together and they set to work converting Bambam into something a bit more Parisian.

Sanderson wanted to create a wine bar that he sees as “the cafe of the night”, and also to bring his classic French chef training into the mix. “I was mulling it over in the shower and thinking about Jean Brillat-Savarin who said, ‘To invite people to dine with us is to make ourselves responsible for their wellbeing for as long as they are under our roof.’

“That’s how I think about hospitality, and so I thought Bar Savarin would be a good name. That’s where it started and where the French look came in.”

The space is decked out with dark No 18 Bentwood chairs, wood-panelled walls, French cutlery and linen napkins on the tables, and a series of arched mirrors along the back wall. When the sun drops below the horizon, the space comes into its own with the glow of candles and music that, Sanderson says, “always comes back to disco”.

Sanderson is on the pans, and he’s set out the menu so diners can share their way through bite-sized morsels (like smoked-potato doughnuts) to “petite assiette” and on to “substantiel” and “la fin” – because a meal is not over until dessert.

In a cross-cultural suggestion to “do as the Romans do”, the favourite staff meal is the flathead en papillote served with mussel butter and sea succulents from a Mornington Peninsula forager. They’re pretty keen on the mussels from Mount Martha and the “sexci” (their words) heirloom tomatoes too.

Keating changes the wine list daily to keep it fresh, from old-school vinos to ones from local vineyards, such as Delinquente Wine Co or Brave New Wine. There are 12 by the glass and, if you like what you’re sipping, you can take home a bottle via the bottle shop. Cocktails are classic – the list includes Negroni and Amaretto Sour, for example – but the G&T changes every 10 days, showcasing a different Australian botanical, such as lemon myrtle or wattleseed.

For Georgopoulos, Bar Savarin and this group is like living the dream. “No one has a strong ego and there is no dominant personality. We all lift each other up.”

Bar Savarin
132 Keys Road, Cheltenham

Wed to Sat 12pm–4pm
Fri 4pm–11pm