Michael Thom and his wife Shelley have a baby daughter called Nico. At six months Nico’s arms and legs were always on the move, so her parents started calling her a little “shadowboxer” and the name stuck.
This happened to be around the time Thom and his business partners were thinking of a name for their new spot on Toorak Road.
Shadowboxer bar and kitchen opened in South Yarra in December – perfect timing for a space with a street-facing, century-old terrace where drinkers – and their dogs – can catch the afternoon sun.
Melbourne-based studio Fiona Lynch designed the polished, light interior. Almost everything is custom-made, from the anodised metal bar and huge wine rack, to the bar stools.
The trio behind Shadowboxer has worked with each other, in different venues across Melbourne, for years. Michael Thom and Luke Thompson were together at Lucky Coq in its early days, and Thompson and Nick Aitken worked together at Borsch, Vodka & Tears for about four years.
“[Shadowboxer] is something we’ve been talking about for six or seven years,” says Aitken. They knew South Yarra was thirsty for a good cocktail and wine bar with mid-price-range dining.
At Shadowboxer, Thom runs the wine cellar. Aitken’s focus is front-of-house, and Thompson specialises in spirits.
The wines are only sourced from small local vineyards (such as Adrian Rodda's Cuvee de Chez from Beechworth). The beer list is also entirely Australian, and the spirit menu features independent producers such as Starward Whisky and Applewood Distillery. The vodkas are all Australian except for two Polish varieties, and in addition to the cocktail list there are separate Martini and Old Fashioned menus. A barrel-aged Negroni – aged on-site in French oak – is the venue’s bestseller.
Chef Liz Contini, formerly sous-chef at Morris Jones and Borsch, Vodka & Tears, has designed a menu that caters to snackers and formal diners. Nibbles include duck ribs with barbeque sauce and jalapeño aioli, and oysters with Bloody Mary gel and fried celery leaves. Stay longer and opt for Shadowboxer’s version of chicken and chips: butterflied poussin with pumpkin, kale, pistachios, golden raisins and jus.
Shadowboxer Bar & Kitchen
302 Toorak Road, South Yarra 3141
(03) 9041 7707