“We were going to get a proper sign to put up out the front,” says Banjo Harris Plane, “but then we thought that a $12.95 can of black spray paint and a ladder was probably a better option. We’ll keep it like that until we get sick of it, or someone complains.”
Yesterday Harris Plane (wine importer, ex-Attica, The Age Good Food Guide 2015 Sommelier of the Year), Michael Bascetta (ex-Attica), Casey Wall and Manu Potoi (both of Rockwell and Sons) opened Bar Liberty where La Condesa used to be. Despite their impressive collective resume, these guys don’t take things too seriously.
Their laid-back approach goes beyond their signwriting. It’s in the refashioned bar globe, Harris Plane’s champagne sabre (a sword used to slice the top off champagne bottles); the fact the bar is named after an irrelevant Star Wars III: The Revenge of the Sith quote; and being able to drink bourbon from a 1956 Ford Thunderbird.
The menu is divided into snacks and bigger sharing plates and, according to Wall, will change “a lot”. He’s also using some lesser-known ingredients, such as kiwani – a strange, horned fruit that tastes a bit like a sour cucumber or an unripe banana – and pork collar steak from Meatsmith around the corner, served with garlic shoots and labne. “It’s just stuff that goes well with wine,” he says.
Harris Plane (who’s also worked at Sydney’s Quay and at Merivale with Master Sommelier Franck Moreau) has put together the kind of wine list he wants to drink. “A healthy balance between new, exciting, biodynamic or low-intervention wines and a bunch of classic stuff,” he says.
Pennyweight Wines in Beechworth, and Tom Shobbrook from South Australia, are also custom-making a red and an orange wine for the bar, which will be served on tap.
There are also beers; non-alcoholic house-made lemonade and kefir; sake; white spirits; and brown liquors. The cocktails are bottled for consistency and “aren’t classic examples,” says Bascetta. Like the Happy Fucking Valentines with Lillet Rose, strawberry, chocolate mint and sparkling wine, or the Millions of Peaches with bourbon, burnt peach and thyme.
While the team acknowledges it’s drawn inspiration for its 40-seater from other venues around the world, they’re certain there’s nothing like this in Melbourne.
234 Johnston Street, Fitzroy
Wed to Sat 5pm–late
Closed Mon & Tues