James Tait has had a bellyful of laneway bars. So, together with legendary restaurateur Peter Bartholomew (Rosa's Kitchen and Canteen, Lee Ho Fook, MoVida, et al) and his wife Cara Tait, the gun bartender is opening his own, light-filled venue on the corner of Bourke Street and Windsor Place.
“It’s something I feel quite strongly about: that we don’t do all our drinking in dark, dingy holes,” Tait says. “I know Melbourne’s got a laneway culture, but we wanted something really obvious and easy to find.”
Named after a print by the 18th-century artist, William Hogarth, Gin Lane will feature a library of around 400 gins, served with the Der Raum veteran’s distinctive flair. Tait has been collecting limited-edition gins for the past 12 months and hints he’s planning something special when it comes to G&Ts and Martinis.
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They’re also in talks with an as-yet-unnamed Melbourne chef about a menu, and are planning to bring a restaurant-style of service to the bar, a skillset Tait has honed in recent years across Coda and Tonka, Stokehouse, Lee Ho Fook and the recently closed Woody P. “I don’t want this to be just a spirits-focused, niche kind of place,” he says. “Drawing from my background we really want to bring the experience of a restaurant into a bar with a good wine list, a super-good beer offering, and we’re working really hard with a consultant on the menu. You don’t have to come just for the gin.”
Across two storeys designed by architects Mills Gorman, the venue will seat 100 indoors and on an open-air terrace. “It’s going to be bright, organic and fresh,” says Tait.
With an opening planned for late September, Gin Lane will be more than two years in the making. Tait has been involved in many new businesses before, but he admits this process is one of the hardest. “It’s the level of complexity. With two floors – there’s nothing easy about that.”
Gin Lane will open in late September at 19–21 Bourke Street, Melbourne. Until then, you can catch James Tait pouring some cracking wines at Lee Ho Fook.