Renowned restaurateur Con Christopoulos’s eyes twinkle as he stands behind the turntables at his newest venue, Angel Music Bar. He places the needle on Dave Brubeck’s jazz classic Take Five, and the drums snap through the venue’s bespoke sound system.
Christopoulos made his name as one of the operators behind iconic Melbourne venues such as The European and City Wine Shop; as well as Kirk’s Wine Bar, French Saloon, Neapoli and, more recently, Butchers Diner. But Angel Music Bar is something new. It’s DJ oriented but it’s not a nightclub, nor is it a cocktail or wine bar. Rather, it’s a music-focused venue with an exceptional sound system playing an eclectic mix of whatever feels right at the time.
“Without sounding arrogant about it, it’ll be a selfish space,” Christopoulos tells Broadsheet of the bar that he co-owns with Mahmoud Taleb and Georgina O'Connor. “There’ll be times when you come in and I’ll be playing Puccini, and playing a bit of backgammon in the courtyard. Every day will be a journey; we’ll start with some classical, maybe move on to some blues and jazz.”
As the sun sets, the space will host DJs playing all genres. There are two turntable set-ups: one downstairs at the end of the bar, and one upstairs in a small, decoration-free, soundproofed room with a tiny bar. Hearing a dance record in the upstairs space, which fits only 80 people, will make you feel like you’re in the middle of a superclub. The company behind the sound system, Funktion-One, is famous for its high-end systems used in iconic clubs such as Space in Ibiza and Berghain in Berlin. Getting one installed was Chrisopoulos’s starting point for the venue. Everything else, he says, was built around it.
“(Funktion-One) are obsessed with quality,” says Christopolous. “They stipulate really high-end wires and interconnects … you can only cross power leads at a 90-degree angle. You can’t run them alongside each other because there is interference. So behind the scenes, there’s a lot of work gone in to protecting wires and running high-quality insulation.”
The main bar is built with raucous nights in mind. The only seats are along the bar and they’re bolted down. Even the small tables fixed to the opposite wall are built for strength.
“The brackets that go into that brick wall are crazy solid. You can jump on that. Everything is designed to be mistreated,” says Christopolous. “It could be a Tuesday night, and we’ll be dancing on the bar. The next Tuesday night could be just completely tranquil.”
Decadent but unfussy bar snacks are cooked next door at Butchers Diner – the lasagne, lobster mac’n’cheese, and mozzarella arancini are passed through a hatch in the wall.
For cocktails, there’s a focus on the classics – “How do you make a Martini?” is the first question for potential bar staff – and all glassware will come from a massive bespoke freezer suggested to Christopolous by his former employee Anton Forte, who co-owns Sydney venues such as The Baxter Inn and Frankie’s Pizza. Christopolous describes the wine list as “Italian heavy” but says there will always be a nice champagne and a local pinot available as well, all of which he will select himself.
“I’ve got three full-time wine buyers next door [at City Wine Shop] who can run rings around me, but as soon as I give them a task they intellectualise it to the nth degree and I don’t want to contaminate the space with too much protocol and structure,” says Christopolous. “It might lack a bit of balance sometimes, and who the hell cares.”
Angel Music Bar is Christopoulos’s attempt – despite his many successes – to get back to what made him fall in love with the life of a restaurateur.
“In the old days you just ran one place and you really expressed yourself, and it was part of you. It was an extension of your home life. Somehow we all became businessmen, and ruined everything,” he says.
Christopoulos mentions he used to DJ a little in his younger days. Given this is a venue designed by him, for him, and he’s already enthusiastically spinning records, I ask if we will see him behind the turntables on a semi-regular basis.
“I’m more of a fader than a beat mixer these days,” he says before his eyes sparkle again. “The answer is yes.”
Angel Music Bar
12 Bourke Street, Melbourne
(03) 9654 6249
Mon to Wed 5pm–3am
Thu to Sat 5pm–5am
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on January 22, 2019. Menu items may have changed since publication.