“I’ve been following your Tiktok,” enthuses a young woman being shown to her table at Follies. “Oh my God. It’s so cute!”
Tiktok is how I first came across the new bar, too. Several months ago a video of owner Liv Franklin dropping greeting letters to her neighbours came across my Tiktok For You page. The first-time bar owner documented her journey to launching Follies in the former Los Amates space and showed Tiktok scrollers what it’s really like to open a venue. Everything from cleaning out former tenants’ kitchens to telling neighbours she’d applied for a liquor licence made the cut.
Now, Franklin’s bar has come to life and Follies, the Johnston Street vegan antipasti bar that gained fans and followers before it opened, is now welcoming guests.
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While buzz around the bar might have an extremely modern origin story, inside it’s visually retro with nostalgic Melbourne style cues. “We wanted it to feel like late ’70s or ’80s – but not in a curated way. It’s more like what your nanna’s house actually looked like in the ’70s,” Franklin explains. The eye-catching wallpaper is made from carpet Franklin found via an online marketplace and the bar’s serving platters have mostly been sourced from op shops.
The menu is “Melbourne Mediterranean”, as Franklin describes it. Expect bean and broccoli stuffed conchiglioni, vegan meatballs and a variety of arancini served on sticks at a self-service counter. There’s also a standout vegan cheese fondue that riffs on a Tiktok recipe developed by Richard Makin of School Night Vegan.
But it’s the vegan arancini that has stolen the show. “People become creatures when arancini is involved. It’s mind-blowing,” says Franklin. To cater to arancini enthusiasts, she threw a dedicated arancini night with eight flavours on offer, including Bunnings sausage and apple crumble numbers. The bar recently hosted a Eurovision party and there are plans for future arancini nights. But even when there’s no special occasion, there’s a fun and familial feeling. (When Broadsheet visits, there’s lots of Abba playing over the speakers – a regular occurrence, Franklin assures us.)
As for drinks, there’s a locally focused wine list and an entirely vegan cocktail menu. Over winter, there’ll be warm alcoholic drinks including mulled wine, Hot Toddies and Irish hot chocolates, which all complement the homey atmosphere Franklin has created.
34 Johnston St, Fitzroy
(03) 9939 3899
Tues to Thu 5pm–11pm
Fri to Sun midday–11pm