After months of pop-ups, Fancy Free – a group of Australia’s best bartenders – has found a semi-permanent home at an old 8bit Burger site on Little Collins Street. And it’ll open next week with Sydney institution Mary’s Burgers running the kitchen for the first few weeks.
“It was just a bit of mutual lovin’, a mutual respect thing going on,” says Mary’s co-founder Kenny Graham, whose Sydney outposts are known for loud tunes and hot patties. “We got all these reviews that were like ‘It’s just fancy McDonalds’. We were like, ‘Yeah, that’s the fucking point’.”
Fancy Free – came together in May last year – and is made up of Matt Stirling, Rob Libecans and Ryan Noreiks; all of whom were instrumental in building Brunswick Street bar Black Pearl into an internationally recognised venue (Chris Hysted-Adams, also ex-Black Pearl, is no longer part of the Fancy Free team). Libecans has also spent time at Sydney’s acclaimed Baxter Inn.
This isn’t the first pop-up Graham and Stirling have run together – Mary’s popped up at Black Pearl a few years ago.
And while the Fancy Free guys come from the world of high-end cocktails, they want their new bar to be an approachable neighbourhood joint – a sentiment the Mary's crew is on board with, too.
“We never wanted to just be known as the burger guys. It’s about hospitality and a care for the community and empathy for how their day has been. That’s the real fuel behind what we do,” says Graham. “Burgers are just a bit of comfort food.”
Expect the Mary’s Burger (beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and Mary’s sauce), a mushroom burger, fried chicken and mash’n’gravy to make an appearance on the Fancy Free bar menu.
Since May Fancy Free has staged pop-ups at Ramblin Rascal Tavern in Sydney and Dandelyan in London, which took out top spot on the World’s 50 Best Bars list in 2018. At Dark Mofo last year, an off-program event with the theme of “Death and Communion” saw the team serve up grapeless red wine cocktails with wafers on the side. The menu was a set of symbols stamped onto each punter’s arm, where each symbol corresponded to a six-second Instagram video explaining the drink.
The cocktail list for Fancy Free Melbourne is still under wraps, but you can expect similarly innovative drinks that move away from the Prohibition era-style cocktails that have dominated the bar scene here for the last few years. There’ll also be Stomping Ground brews on tap and a diverse wine list.
Fancy Free is due to open next week. Keep an eye on the bar’s Instagram for the opening date.
Additional reporting by Kayla Spencer.