Zara Young and Michael Madrusan of Heartbreaker Bar, Melbourne. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen The front bar at Hats and Tatts in South Melbourne. Photo: Arsineh Houspian
Australia’s top 25 bars 2015
If you don’t think the bars are as subject to trends as restaurants, you haven’t been paying attention. The ’80s and ’90s were an era defined by flare-style bartending and vodka. The past seven or so years have been all about bowties, speakeasies and prohibition-style cocktails. But we’re standing on the brink of a new era.
It’s the dawn of the smart-casual bar. Just as restaurants whipped the white linen off tables while maintaining high-end cooking in the past decade, bartenders are now loosening the shirt stays while still serving the high-quality drinks we’ve come to expect.
Drinkers are better educated than ever. We want our beers craft, and most people know how to order an Old Fashioned. “It’s like the idea of provenance in restaurants,” says West Winds Gin founder Jason Chan. “People don’t want you to explain the basics any more. They just want to have fun.”
The result is a shift in focus from education to entertainment. Bars with a dive feel and quality drinks are in. The Beaufort in Carlton championed the concept three years ago. Recently, Michael Madrusan, founder of the award-winning golden era-style cocktail bar the Everleigh in Fitzroy, launched Heartbreaker Bar in the city, where the focus is on rock, and beer. You can still get a quality cocktail over hand-cut ice, but it’s pre-bottled so your time at the bar is minimised and your time at their custom jukebox is maximised.
“Heartbreaker is an atmosphere bar,” says Madrusan. “The Everleigh does me right in so many ways, but there’s an energy you get with that style of music.”
In South Melbourne, Jason Chan has launched Hats and Tatts, an irreverent bar with fast, sharp drinks. There are cocktails on tap, an all-craft beer list and a glittering back bar, but they also have an Addam’s Family pinball machine and a neon sign saying “Derelicte my balls”.
“Chefs call it diffusion: taking your iconic brand and making it more casual,” says Chan. “We’re not dispensing with beautiful glassware and nice drinks, but you don’t have to wear a three-piece suit all the time.”
Other changes are happening within restaurants. Smart operators are realising cocktails are not only important to nail, but profitable. The bars of restaurants such as Supernormal and Lume in South Melbourne, both awarded a hat in the latest Age Good Food Guide, have hired notable cocktail bartenders to shape their menus.
On the flip side of that equation, wine bars are increasingly hiring serious chefs. Newcomers Semi Permanent on Smith Street, Bar Clarine on Gertrude Street and Smalls in South Melbourne are all delivering some of the best food in their neighbourhoods. Smalls was recently serving a croque monsieur covered in shaved truffle, and Clarine’s prawn toast comes with sea urchin roe and an umami-rich kombu butter.
There’s never been a better time to be a drinker. The future is bright, fun and delicious.
The Age Good Food Guide 2016 can be purchased for $24.99 from selected bookshops and theageshop老域名备案老域名
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