After repealing prohibition on December 5, 1933, U.S. President Roosevelt famously quipped: “What America needs now is a drink.” The same can be said of thirsty Camberwell, which up until May of this year has required Boorondara residents to vote on restaurant liquor licence applications, due to a 95-year-old law.
“It’s a dry area, so it’s incredibly boring. There’s a massive demand for good food and good wine,” says Wayne Stoll, who has opened Prohibition Food and Wine with his wife Kirsty and local investors Jaye and Mike Morton.
Housed inside a former bank, Prohibition is a little shinier, brighter and easier to find than your average speakeasy. Large, high windows flood the cavernous space with natural light, and reveal patches of exposed brick, dark timber furniture, marble tables and brown leather seats. The cornice is original, as are the floors, which have been sanded back and varnished. Seating is a mix of smaller tables and communal ones, banquettes and bar stools, so the solo drinker or diner is as well catered for as those in a group.
It’s as much a restaurant as a bar, and the menu reflects chef Matt Barlow’s (ex-Two Birds One Stone, Fatto Bar & Cantina, Cecconi’s) fine dining experience more than its suburban locale (although kids are catered for). Chicken comes with garlic foam and jus gras, there’s a green garden salad swathed in edible flowers, and a white-anchovy bruschetta with smoked tomato. You can get a steak, or a burger, but the patty is Wagyu, the bun is brioche, and the chips are sprinkled with rosemary salt. If a cheese or charcuterie board is more your jam, or you want to skip straight to dessert, the menu gives you that freedom too.
The wine list is safe but solid. You won’t find anything orange or sulphite-free, but you will find more unusual varieties such as Arneis, Blaufränkisch and Montepulciano. Mountain Goat beer is on tap, and there are Crownies, Peronis and MB longnecks by the bottle. And of course, there are cocktails: choose from classics such as Negronis or South Sides, or for something a little fresher try a Mojito or an Aperol Spritz.
A toast to the start of the end – the drought has broken.