234 Johnston St., Fitzroy
When a trio of chefs from top Melbourne restaurants like Attica and Rockwell & Sons go rogue and open their own joint, you get Bar Liberty, the restaurant-meets-wine-bar-meets-snack-spot that every neighborhood wishes it had. It’s the kind of place where you can pitch up alone, slide into a seat at the bar, taste a glass of something new and nibble on some perfectly sour sourdough with a pat of cultured butter. But a full dinner or at least a couple of plates to share here is so worth it—we had prawns charred over smoky coals and flecked with preserved corn, and the tastiest macadamia and honey tart to finish. (For those partial to an aperitif, try the locally distilled Okar, which tastes like Aperol’s antipodean cousin.)
Cutler & Co.
55/57 Gertrude St., Fitzroy
Restaurateur Andrew McConnell runs some of the tastiest joints—Supernormal, Marion—in Melbourne. At Cutler & Co., the beautiful menu is matched by the surroundings: Floor-to-ceiling Belgian-style windows flood the interior with light by day, and the exposed-brick walls have an ashy, worn-in look that makes the place feel less precious and more inviting, despite a menu that leans toward fine dining. Forgoing the tasting menu for a bunch of small plates from the à la carte is the way to go. You get to taste…whatever you want, without filling up too much before dessert. Radishes dipped in taramosalata; a dish of scorched, oily Padron peppers; just-ripe heirloom tomatoes doused in a briny seaweed oil; and a few airy pistachio macarons to finish is (to us) the perfect supper. Cutler & Co. has one of the most curated wine lists in the city, with a heavy focus on Australian labels, but it’s the selection of Fino sherry and the thoughtful nonalcoholic cocktails that won us over. Images courtesy of Kristoffer Paulsen.