Every year, the happening suburbs seem to be happening further out from the city centre. First it’s Fitzroy, then Northcote, then Thornbury and pretty soon you’re in Castlemaine. But Gerald Diffey of Carlton North’s beloved Gerald’s Bar is taking things perhaps a little too far. Instead of delving further in to Melbourne's north, he’s moving to San Sebastian, in north-west Spain.
If that sounds, well, a little unexpected, Diffey’s reasons are actually eminently sensible. “When I moved to Melbourne I knew I wanted to live and work here,” he explains. “And even though I’ve traveled widely, San Sebastian is the only place I’ve ever felt that draw to. I love the town; I love the food; I love the people; I love their attitude on life and I want to be a part of that.”
Diffey is taking over a little restaurant on the Calle del Ángel behind the fishing port called Errota Txiki. “The existing restaurant has been there for more than 50 years, and the owners are just retiring,” he says. “It’s a little sandstone place, 40 seats, old wood and stone, copper range-hood, very original, very beautiful.”
With plans to open in September, Gerald’s Bar at Errota Txiki will be like, “the early days of Gerald’s,” using whatever good stuff is available from the markets on any given day. We’ll go to the local markets as we do here and buy what’s in season and fresh, and we’ll cook a few dishes every day,” says Diffey.
Its wine list, however, is going to freak the locals out, featuring bottles from our wide brown land as well as European drops. “We’ll be dealing not only in local wine, but Australian wine. People we’ve dealt with for a long time,” he says.
And, Diffey will also explore his unique taste in interior design. “We’ve got plenty of artwork that’s waiting for a space on the wall,” he says. “It’s the same sort of – well, some people call it kitsch – I think it’s cool.”
Spending half the year abroad, and half back home on the hallowed ground of Rathdowne Street, Diffey will be taking his front-of-house gun Mario Di Ienno with him on his Basque adventure.
North Carlton locals need not worry, though. Gerald’s Bar is staying exactly where it is – even if Gerald is taking off for a bit in September. Agur eta zorte ona!