If you believed the hype, Longsong was on track to being one of the year's best new bars long before it opened. Venture in to experience the final product and you'll be hard-pressed to disagree.
A long time coming (it was first rumoured to open in November 2016), it's the latest venture from David Moyle of Hobart's Franklin. He has teamed up with Melbourne restaurateurs Lisa and John van Haandel to create a sibling venue, and upstairs neighbour, to their iconic mod-Thai haunt, Longrain.
Once a horse stable, the lofty space that greets you at the top of the stairs is downright impressive. A central bar cuts the sprawling room neatly in two — a 30-seat dining area by the open kitchen and a sun-drenched lounge situation in front, with banquette seating and huge folding windows overlooking Little Bourke Street.
The styling is contemporary, with timber cladding, arty resin-topped tables and a ceiling hung with Chinese lanterns lending just the right amount of funk.
The kitchen offering is a celebration of simplicity — unfussy, but cleverly executed and more affordable than you might expect. Nab a table in the restaurant section to experience the full dining menu. It's a share-friendly lineup, starting with smaller dishes like dry-aged beef tartare with saltbush and a horseradish kick ($19) and grilled calamari with squid ink ($9). Heftier dishes, fresh off the kitchen's woodfire grill, include whole John Dory with peas ($51) and a feast-sized, 700-gram dry-aged beef rib ($84).
The bar menu is a snackier assembly of things to match with those after-work vinos — sesame roasted pumpkin seeds ($4), kangaroo jerky with native pepper ($5) and a plate of house pickles ($5). There's a bright dish of marinated octopus, livened up with olive oil and tumble of basil ($11), and an airy cloud of whipped smoked fish to load onto housemade crispbread ($8). Woodfired skewers might feature chicken thighs teamed with a spicy eggplant concoction ($21) or Korean-style chilli rice cakes ($18).
The drinks situation proves just as tempting, whether you're in for a feed or not. Alongside all-Victorian lineups of both craft beer and wines by the glass, there's a handful of classic cocktails — maybe with a twist, like the French 75 made with sake ($18). For more creative summer boozing, see the range of signature Spritz creations. A few sips of the Dry + Aromatic ($15), with its blend of Maidenii, lemon thyme and prosecco, and you'll be feeling as cool as a cucumber, regardless of the weather.
There's no doubt that this one was well worth the wait.