You'll find gold-roped bollards, ceiling-high curtains, birdcages and crystal chandeliers inside Lover, a new cocktail lounge at the Windsor end of Chapel Street.
On weekends the bar is licensed until 1am, and the kitchen is open right through.
“We just wanted somewhere to have a drink. basically, and some food that’s not Asian street food,” says co-owner Will Newton, who helped found nearby (now-closed) Saigon Sally in 2012, before selling his shares three years later.
The corner site was most recently Uncommon cafe. Will and his brother James Newton, also co-owner of Lover, opened the daytime eatery in 2015. Then, at the end of 2017, the pair did a complete 180, closing the bright white space and turning it into something dark and purring.
Hanging pot plants have been removed to make room for knick-knacks such as a giant clamshell masquerading as a fruit bowl. The white walls have been clad with black timber and adorned with antiques collected and selected by William Tarlo, the owner of the antiques shop that occupied the site before it became Uncommon. The bar itself is made from old pool tables.
Lining the bar are brass goblets filled with tiny pegs and long silver skewers, both used to attach elaborate garnishes to cocktails. The menu is broad, with experimental takes on classics. There’s a Pineapple Lumps Negroni made with plantation pineapple rum in place of gin, and a dash of chocolate bitters. It goes down smooth. The signature Espresso Martini is topped with pineapple and lavender foam, and garnished with bee pollen and purple hydrangeas. It’s flamboyant and photo-worthy, all in the name of fun.
Now he’s tapped into the fine-dining part of the brain to produce refined, fun food. The prawn-toast starter is a wave to the sesame prawn toast the Newtons ate at their local Chinese takeaway joint growing up in Bentleigh. Here, it’s fried in chorizo oil and topped with prawn mousse. For something served on white bread, it’s perplexingly elegant and moreish.
The sausage-shaped pretzel stuffed with a Wagyu bresaola, cheddar emulsion, pickles and mustard is a crowd favourite. Look further down the menu for more technical, restrained dishes. Just don’t go so far you miss the smoked duck breast, which is served simply with raspberries, plum and beetroot.
60 Chapel Street, Windsor
(03) 9510 6655
Wed to Thur 5pm–11pm
Fri to Sat 5pm–1am