Melbourne’s bar snacks are sophisticated, fun, great for sharing and don’t mind if you move on to the next bar without so much as a promise to call. There are no musty pretzels or questionable bowls of nuts at these places; from dainty Japanese rolls and firey hot dogs, to late-night chorizo toasties, you can snack right at the bar into the early hours.
Sweet corn kaki-age at Izakaya Den
The city’s favourite subterranean Japanese joint, Izakaya Den, is modelled on the less formal beer, sake ‘n’ snack establishments in Tokyo. Less formal, however, doesn’t equal less good; Den’s elegant little dishes and enormous (interesting) booze list is testament to that. As you sit at the bar, try the sweet corn kaki-age, a crunchy fritter built from individual kernels, dipped in vibrant green-tea salt, combined with a fresh, tangy, unpasteurised junmai sake. Kanpai!
Charcuterie at Bomba
The Spanish know their ham is so good it doesn’t need accompaniment – as do the folks at Bomba. If there’s a more complete aperitif than a wooden board covered in Joselito iberico jamon (ham made from a black pig fed only on acorns, aged for 36 months) and a Rosita (Campari, Tromba tequila, sweet and dry vermouth), we know nothing about it.
Lobster, cucumber and caviar temaki roll at Hihou
In what might be the most civilised of Melbourne’s cocktail bars, Hihou, the snacks are expectedly impeccable. The lobster, cucumber and caviar temaki roll is just as luxurious as it sounds, with its premium ingredients laid on a dainty bed of seaweed. You could, of course, pair it with a deliciously fresh junmai-shu sake, but the more adventurous will attempt a negro-kan – Hihou’s take on the Negroni with Campari, mandarin-infused umeshu and plum-infused gin.
Pork trotter and ham hock nuggets at Nieuw Amsterdam
Nieuw Amsterdam’s take on New York classics makes for supreme snacks. Late at night, particularly, it’s tempting to indulge your deep-fried urges, which Nieuw Amsterdam encourages with its indulgent pork trotter and ham hock nuggets, served with a burnt onion jam. Pair with a pint of Kooinda American Pale Ale, a sterling small brewer out of Heidelberg.
Lamb ribs at Cumulus Up
Food writers have expended many words on Cumulus Up’s duck waffle, (because dammit, the thing deserves the hype), but we’re also partial to a plate of tender lamb ribs, served on the bone, accompanied with smoked tomato. Pair with a glass of Weird Berries in the Wood Gewürztraminer, a natural wine from one of the Basket Range’s most interesting new producers, Ochota Barrels.
Hot chorizo and Mahon cheese toastie at Loch & Key
When Heston Blumenthal spoke with Broadsheet recently, he rhapsodised about jaffles. If the humble toastie can win over the chef who atomises meals for his diners to inhale, surely the rest of us can enjoy this simpler of pleasures. Made with hot chorizo and Mahon, a hard, salty cheese from the Spanish port that gives it its name, Loch & Key’s late-night toastie goes down particularly well after a couple of Boulevardiers, a classic combination of beautifully bitter bourbon, Campari and Rosso Antico.
Tofu and mushroom hot diggety dog at Boney
It’s as much a surprise to us as it is to you, but Boney’s bar menu is a winner. We like the tofu and mushroom hot diggity dog, served with roasted roots, fresh shoots and firey Sichuan sauce on a crusty roll. Cool down with a Sidecar (cognac, orange liqueur and lemon juice).
Yellow-tail kingfish pancetta at Bar Lourinhã
Bar Lourinhã has timeless European appeal and the perennial attraction of a McConnell in the kitchen. Chef Matt McConnell delivers impeccable tapas up the high end of Little Collins, with dishes such as thinly sliced pancetta crafted from yellow-tail kingfish. Couple with fragrant Antica Formula red vermouth over ice for a very sophisticated aperitif indeed.
Cheese at Whisky & Alement
Whisky & Alement is uncomplicated: it serves whisky and ale. The trick is it’s bloody good at it. This Russell Street bar keeps its bar snacks simple, serving a selection of cheeses – also very good – which are carefully chosen to pair well with whisky. Although the cheese list changes according to Whisky & Alement’s whim, a wedge of spicy, buttery Colston Bassett Stilton from Nottingham, England, with a peaty snifter of Laphroaig Quarter Cask from Islay will serve you very well.