It’s been written that the historical figure Pope Joan had an illegitimate son who became the Bishop of Ostia. Back then it had to be hushed up, but now the Bishop proudly sits next to his mum on Nicholson Street in East Brunswick.
Opening last weekend, the Bishop of Ostia is a bar that not only stands on its own two feet, but complements the cafe Pope Joan, which opened back in July 2010. Co-owners Ben Foster and chef Matt Wilkinson have had the Bishop in their sights since then but the time wasn’t right until now.
“Matt and I wanted to do a cafe and Pope Joan was born, but when we were looking for a place, I really wanted an outdoor area, which also suited Matt’s wanting a kitchen-garden,” says Foster. The eventual space for Pope Joan came with a second building attached and ample open space. “It was too much to do in one go, so we focused on the cafe and in the last few months decided to get the Bishop done,” says Foster. “We pushed to get it finished for summer.”
The interior of the Bishop – designed by architect Matt Rawlins of Figure & Ground and built by East Brunswick-based CBD assets – is angular and minimal with warm touches, such as the wooden finishes courtesy of Orio Randi and his team at Arteveneta. Artwork in the back of the room by Josef Marzi sees an photograph of cherry blossoms pixilated and stretched to create a stunning enveloping image. The outdoor space is shared with Pope Joan and when the Pope closes in the afternoon, the Bishop opens.
“We don’t want it to be all about the food,” says Foster. “It [the menu] is like a collection of Matt’s greatest hits, but it’s more about the quality of the drinks using premium products and making something special.”
Expect simple yet striking bar food – smoked garlic bagna cauda with vegetables, deep-fried bug tails and pigs ear sandwiches with salsa verde – and a drinks list, by Pope Joan sommelier Lori Smith with only Victorian wines, craft beers and cocktails built around an interesting selection of obscure gins from around the world.