No longer just a pre- or post-dinner proposition, many of Melbourne’s bars now offer dishes to rival their restaurant counterparts. Kick off with a cocktail or a glass of wine at the bar, then make a meal of it with a procession of small plates. From Japanese-leaning hotdogs to indulgent waffles, we bring you the tastiest booze-friendly food around town.
Hihou hotdog at Hihou
Finding this Flinders Lane bar is half the fun. Once you’ve happened upon the doorbell and been admitted to the second-floor den, prop yourself at the bar, hover over one of the petite tables for two, or slip off your shoes and slide into one of the plushly-carpeted booths. Among knockout tuna cigars and chilli edamame on the Japanese bar menu, the Hihou Dog ($11) is a standout. A Baker D. Chirico sesame brioche bun holds a finger-slender Gotzinger pork sausage and a jumble of pickled cabbage. Bottles of house-made tonkatsu, chilli sauce and wasabi mayo are there to add as you please. Savour it over a Kirin beer or top-shelf sake served in earthenware cups.
Duck waffle at Cumulus Up
Set above Cumulus Inc., industrial-luxe Cumulus Up was a hit from the minute it opened, such is the Midas touch of Andrew McConnell. And as we’ve come to expect from this game-changing chef, the bar snacks here are a cut above. While we might usually associate waffles with condiments of maple syrup and berries, McConnell has elevated this breakfast bad boy to savoury status with a duck-studded version ($8). Filled with confit meat and shreds of skin, the golden wedge comes topped with a swirl of foie gras parfait and a splodge of prune puree. This concoction plays nice with a glass of pinot noir.
Goat’s cheese profiteroles at The Town Mouse
In the Drummond Street space once occupied by Andrew McConnell and Nicolas Poelaert, sleek newcomer the Town Mouse has quickly made itself at home. A curvaceous bar and tall tables now beckon for snappy share plates with glasses of wine. Goat’s cheese profiteroles in a puddle of rooftop-harvested honey ($3 each) work a treat with a glass of muscadet from the Loire Valley. Make a meal of it with dishes of steamed clams, crisped beef cheeks or pressed lamb belly.
Gnocchi alla Romana at Bar Di Stasio
This slender slip of a room beside Café Di Stasio delivers drink-friendly dining at its best. Pop in for a Negroni sbagliata (literally a ‘wrong’ Negroni, pepped up with a splash of prosecco) at the marble bar, then take your pick of inviting Italian dishes, perhaps a single lamb cutlet, two pieces of roast duck, or a trio of gnocchi alla Romana at $4 a pop. These smooth-textured semolina rounds come topped with a flavoursome wild boar ragu. Balance out the meaty with a serve of crumbed eggplant chips or a goat’s cheese, tomato and basil salad.
Gently pickled mushrooms at Neighbourhood Wine
Bearing a far more virtuous vibe than days gone by, Neighbourhood Wine is ticking all the boxes with its homey loungeroom feel, pool table and sprawling wine list. Open a bottle, pick up a cue and order the pickled mushrooms with lentil vinaigrette, walnuts and redlof ($15), paired with a pert Trebbiano from Abruzzo. Forget the stodge of bar dishes past – this is wine-dining at its healthful best. Remember that Neighbourhood Wine tends to switch up their menu week to week, so even if they’re all out of mushrooms on your visit, you can rest assured that there’ll be plenty more on the menu that will satisfy (like the Dutch beef croquettes pictured).