This sophisticated, intimate bar is on the second floor of the building that’s home to Brooke Hayman and Julian White’s other venue, Whisky and Alement. It’s much quieter and more serene than its downstairs sibling, with a five-stack stereo playing mostly jazz and blues vinyl. There are around 800 types of whisky on offer here, including Hayman and White’s seven-year-strong, rare, old and special-import whiskies (including an eight-year-old Glen Dromach, bottled sometime between 1963 and 1976). Old and rare comes at a price, of course (a 30-millilitre glass of Cooper’s Choice 13-year-old Port Ellen, for instance, will set you back $108), but hey – you deserve it. Private bookings for group tastings are available, and for these, prices are very reasonable.
This bar, from the team behind Jungle Boy and Boston Sub, is located in the former site of Matt Bax’s Der Raum, which then became Bar Economico and Bar Exuberante. It’s a Caribbean-themed cocktail bar, with palm trees, stuffed parrots and flamingo wallpaper, but it feels contemporary – not crude – with bronze mirrors and architectural flourishes like the wood-panelled ceiling. Dave Denton, who worked at Jungle Boy for three years, is in charge of the heavily rum-focused drinks menu, but it’s not all rum. Beer Cuba, and Red Stripe from Jamaica, are on tap, as are Negronis and coconut Cuba Libres. There’s an outdoor area designed in the style of a typical Cuban garden, which also doubles as a smoking room so you can suck down a genuine Cuban (or Dominican Republican) cigar between drinks. Get your weekend started here.
This is the wine bar without a bar. There’s a counter against the wall, where glasses are arranged, cocktails are mixed and wine poured. That’s because owner Prabir Majumdar didn’t want a bar separating his guests from staff. He and Joshua Elias, the editor of wine magazine Alquimie, have curated the 160-bottle wine list. The food complements the wine or beer or Champagne, not the other way around. To match a glass of NV André Clouet ‘Grande Reserve’ Brut Champagne, pair it with a bowl of popcorn covered in fine curls of Gruyère cheese. With your Flemish sour ale, go for the charcuterie. There’s a list of local and international beers and spirits with details on tasting notes and origins. A communal table sits in the centre, around which there are small tables with armchairs, a banquette running along one wall, and a nook with a couch for two. This has already become a neighbourhood favourite. It’s quiet – don’t come here expecting a rowdy Saturday night – and calm, ideal for a laid-back wine and a chat.
This is the second bar from Gustavo Gonzalez and Sebastian Butler, owners of Northcote institution Joe’s Shoe Store. They’ve brought their simple but effective formula over to Brunswick East, with less rowdiness. Everyone needs a neighbourhood bar like this one, but very few get one – “good vibes, good booze, good tunes,” is what it’s all about, Gonzalez says. Cocktails are simple and classic. Think perfectly diluted Martinis and Negronis. There’s a rotating tap for beer, and a concise but thoughtful wine list. It’s next-door to wood-fired pizza spot Mankoushé, which delivers hot slabs of dough and cheese to the hungry at Joe’s. A large part of the success of Gonzalez and Butler’s Northcote bar is the sense of community it’s created over its lifetime – they’re going for the same thing here.
Mirek Aldridge started out brewing with a 70-litre homebrew set-up and a small hand-cranked Corona grain mill, which is where his Collingwood venue, The Mill Brewery, gets its name. He has a 600-litre system now, but he hasn’t changed his process. He still uses his homebrew kit to experiment with small batches before committing to a larger run. The main selection here consists of a vanilla porter, a black IPA and an easy-drinking American pale ale. It’s backed up by two taps that feature a guest beer and cider, and a short wine list. Housed in a warehouse space on a quiet road near Smith Street, long red-gum tables and the bar counter occupy most of the room. All of the brewing equipment is visible at the back. Aldridge spent more than five years looking for the right spot and he did the fit-out himself. He’s still the only main employee. There’s a different food truck parked out the front each day the brewery is open.
You can choose from 350 take-home wines here – mostly from smaller producers – but it’s also a lovely local spot for a drop. One half of the space is fitted with racks and fridges filled with bottles; the other is a cosy neighbourhood wine bar, with an ornamental fireplace, an old wooden display cabinet and a retro globe. It’s intimate – there’s only room for 35. You can buy a bottle, pay corkage and park on a stool at the long countertop bar, or settle into a window-facing bench – good for a glass of red, your new book, and watching the world go by. The 15 by-the-glass options change every month, including a three-wine degustation tasting selection. There’s also charcuterie, cheese and antipasto to nibble on. Wines are arranged by region or type (Rhône, Chablis; alternatives, “Chardy”), with Australian drops scattered among international equivalents.
Above Board, Collingwood
This tiny bar on Smith Street has room for 12. There’s no menu. The design is minimalist, sleek and leans contemporary Japanese. The cocktails are first-class. That’s all you need to know. Trust us.
This is a tricky one. Technically it’s a pizza window. But it’s part of Heartbreaker, a bar, and it’s new. And it’s very good. So here it is. If Heartbreaker is a slightly unkempt child of the ’70s, its new tenant, Connie’s Pizza, is of the more wholesome variety: the sweet, loving grandmother. A harbour in the tempest. Owner Michael Madrusan named it in honour of his nonnina, who used to make pizza for the family every weekend while he was growing up. The menu is very simple: cheese, pepperoni or Sicilian. The New York-style pies can be purchased either whole or by the slice (on “shitty white plates,” as Madrusan says), eat in or takeaway, from a small green-tiled ’70s- inspired pizzeria. For the pepperoni pizza, Madrusan and head chef Michael Dunne blind-tasted 32 different salamis. That’s commitment. Best accompanied with a beer.
Whitehart (a massive new CBD bar constructed out of containers), Pinball Paradise (rare gaming machines and Japanese whisky), Bosozoku (a bar inspired by Japanese bikers, with an indoor spa) and Holey Moley (golf and cocktails) were four of our most-read bar opening stories of the year.