In May 2016, Naz Mahari and Dawit Kebede opened Mesob in Northcote. They wanted to share their Ethiopian heritage with Melbourne by serving traditional dishes from their upbringing in a space with as much African heart and soul as they could fit inside the building.
On Saturday nights in particular, Mesob has become a vibrant, popular hangout, with live African music.
“We’ve had to turn back so many people on these nights and have always wished for a bigger space,” says Mahari. At last, this in the works.
The pair plans to open their second venture in late-October. It’ll be called The Bar Next Door, named for its location relative to Mesob.
“We weren’t going to give it a name, but ‘The Bar Next Door’ just stuck and it basically explains everything perfectly,” Mahari says. “It’s separate to Mesob and it’s local.
“Well, it sounds local, from wherever you may be in Melbourne, and that’s the feel we’re going for.”
The site was previously home to Skelp, a by-appointment-only showroom that sold vintage Polish posters and magazines. Before that – as the street-front signage indicates – it was an eatery.
“We love the layers of history the building shows and are still deciding what to change and what to keep for The Bar Next Door,” says Mahari.
The two venues will be run separately, but customers are encouraged to experience both on the same night in different ways. Food can be ordered at Mesob and delivered next door to the bar. Diners can also BYO meals from other local favourites such as Tahina, Pizza Meine Liebe and Lâm Lâm.
“We want to provide a perfect home-away-from-home to enjoy your favourite take away dishes with a drink at, but also huddle together with all your indecisive mates and eat different cuisines together,” says Mahari.
The venue will fit roughly 60 people – 40 seated – with high tables near the front entrance and seating around a U-shaped bar. Towards the back of the room there’ll be a lounge area, large tables for big groups and a courtyard.
Unlike Mesob’s traditional African tunes, the bar will play a variety of genres and styles.
“For Mesob, we knew exactly what we wanted to achieve and it’s been a great success showing our roots,” says Mahari. “But we’re Australian, too, so next door is a blend of both cultures and a good reflection of who we are.”
The bar will have a rustic Ethiopian feel, Mahari says, with earthy colours and a dried-grass pergola above the bar. There’ll be African beers alongside Australian beer, cider and wines, plus classic cocktails.
In time, the bar will also introduce Spris – a classic Ethiopian fruit juice that features layers of fresh fruit such as avocado, strawberry, papaya and mango.
The Bar Next Door
211a High Street, Northcote
(03) 9489 6952
Thu to Sat 6pm–late