If you've ever wondered what would happen if two ex-Attica young guns teamed up with the guys behind Rockwell and Sons to open their own wine bar, well, you need not ponder any longer. That's exactly the situation at Johnston Street's new addition Bar Liberty, and we can tell you it's working a treat.
The boys have taken over the lo-fi corner joint once home to La Condesa, tidying up the exterior only just enough to let you know it's Mexican no longer. The space within is contemporary, but unaffectedly so; they've kept the glitz to a minimum, the banquette seating sans cushions, and the floors concrete. Sure, it's not the cosiest spot in Fitzroy, but the food and booze offering shines is all the better for it.
This is a destination for flavour lovers who aren't afraid to try a few new things. Sure, you could stick with your favourite rosé and some charcuterie and leave happy, but creativity reigns supreme on both the menu and drinks list, so it's well worth digging in a little deeper.
Sommelier Banjo Harris Plane will wheel around his old-school globe bar trolley to tempt you with the evening's pouring wines. You might end up sipping a fortified wine made in collaboration with Beechworth's Pennyweight Winery or even something featuring the house-made vermouth ($9). After that, you'll probably find yourself sharing a bottle from the hefty range of Chenin Blanc, or maybe one of the well-represented skin contact whites.
Seasoned beer fans will appreciate the brew selection, which is heavy on the sours — like the great 8 Wired Brewing Co.'s Sour Side of the Moon ($35) — and full of share-friendly bottles upwards of 500mL.
Meanwhile, the food menu is geared towards clever grazing, with shareable small and medium dishes the stars of the show. Dainty potato crisps are topped with a mussel dip ($3.50 each), and steak tartare is teamed with 'nduja, a spreadable salami ($18). A charred octopus tentacle with bread sauce is as decadent as you've ever had; it's super tender and packed with flavour thanks to being cooked in chicken fat ($13). The chicken skin left over from those drippings has been turned into the hero of another dish: the instant cult classic they call the G.L.T ($12). This one's crafted from a couple of pieces of standard white bread, shredded iceberg, mayo, sliced tomatoes and chicken skin that's been crisped to epic pork crackling proportions. It might not be fancy, or even pretty, but gosh darn it's addictive.
Larger dishes and veggie sides are perfect for those wanting to make a night of it. Drag a piece of tender Berkshire pork through its accompanying carrot sauce ($29), and down a few golden potatoes smothered in fermented chilli sauce ($9), and you won't be wanting to leave anytime soon. This winter, pep things up on the tastebud front and bunker down at Bar Liberty.
Image: Brook James.