There’s nothing better than your local watering hole, whether it’s a local wine bar or the pub around the corner. Whether you want to settle in for the afternoon or night, here are five of the best new spots across Melbourne that want you to make yourself at home.
There are personal touches on the walls and in the furniture at Bar Josephine, Aaron Donato’s spot in Footscray, named after his nonna Giuseppa. Books, including worn copies of Death in Brunswick and In Cold Blood, fill the shelves. There are porcelain cups and bowls made by Donato’s mother. The bar takes some influence from Prudence in North Melbourne, where he drank as a student. “I really like craft beer, I really like being a bartender and I wanted a business where I could sit and feel comfortable writing, getting drunk and listening to good music,” he says .The well-priced $8 pints of West City Brewing Footscray Ale will be a staple among the 12 taps. It’s open seven days a week, and has a dog-friendly outdoor area.
At this wine bar, you won’t actually find a bar. Instead, you’ll find a counter – as you might find in your kitchen – up against the wall, where glasses are arranged, cocktails are mixed and wine poured. That’s because owner Prabir Majumdar didn’t want a bar separating his guests from the staff – he wants the space to feel like an extension of your lounge room. He and Joshua Elias, the editor of wine magazine Alquimie, have curated the 160-bottle wine list. The food from head chef Jasmin Lefers complements the wine, not the other way around. To match a glass of NV André Clouet ‘Grande Reserve’ Brut Champagne, the menu recommends you pair it with a bowl of popcorn covered in fine curls of Gruyère cheese. The suggested beverage with the charcuterie plate is a Flemish sour ale. There’s also a list of local and international beers and spirits that details their tasting notes and origins. A communal table sits in the centre of the space, around which there are small tables with armchairs, a banquette running along one wall, and a nook with a couch for two.
Gustavo Gonzalez and Sebastian Butler, the owners of Northcote institution Joe’s Shoe Store, have taken their simple but effective formula over to Uncle Joe’s, their new Lygon Street bar. “Good vibes, good booze, good tunes,” is what it’s all about, says Gonzalez. Uncle Joe’s is next door to Brunswick wood-fired pizza spot Mankoushé, which delivers hot slabs of dough and cheese to its neighbour. Cocktails are simple and classic. Think perfectly diluted Martinis and Negronis. There’s a rotating tap for beer, and a concise but thoughtful wine list. Known for hosting some of Melbourne’s best DJs, the Shoe Store can get pretty rowdy. At the new venue, the boys aim to start off a little more relaxed. A large part of the success of Gonzalez and Butler’s Northcote bar is the sense of community it’s created over its lifetime – “I’m really looking forward to having the same thing here,” Gonzalez says of Uncle Joe’s.
Richmond’s Atlas Vinfera is a bottle shop – you can pop in and choose from 350 wines, mostly from smaller producers, and there’s also beer for sale – and also a bar. One half of the single-level store is fitted with racks and fridges lined with bottles, while the other half is a cosy but sleek neighbourhood wine bar, with an ornamental fireplace, an old wooden display cabinet and a retro globe with a whisky bottle and glasses hidden inside. You can buy a bottle, pay corkage and park on a stool at the long countertop bar, or for a more intimate spot, there’s a window-facing bench. There are 15 by-the-glass options on a menu that changes every month, lus charcuterie, cheese and antipasto to nibble on. Wines are arranged by region or type (Rhône, Chablis; alternatives, “Chardy”), with Australian drops scattered among international equivalents.
Mirek Aldridge has been brewing beer for 10 years. He started out with a 70-litre homebrew set-up and a small hand-cranked Corona grain mill, which is where his new venue, The Mill Brewery, gets its name. Aldridge opened the Mill in late March and has upsized from his early brewing days to a 600-litre system. The move hasn’t changed his process, though – he still uses his homebrew kit to experiment with small batches before committing to a larger run. The Mill is small, housed in a warehouse space on a quiet road near Smith Street. Long red-gum tables and the bar occupy most of the room. Aldridge spent more than five years looking for the right spot. After signing the lease last year he did the fit-out himself and he’s still the only main employee. The focus is on keeping the taproom stocked for the moment, and others are handling the snacks – there’s a different food truck parked out the front each day the brewery is open, which so far is only Friday, Saturday and Sunday.