Establishment neighborhood
Bar Liberty
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.)
Christian Kimber
264 Johnston St., Fitzroy
Christian Kimber was born in England and cut his teeth designing shoes for the Brit brand Lodger. After decamping to Melbourne, Kimber craved a more toned-down iteration of classic British men’s tailoring and decided to make it himself. His Fitzroy store is deeply fun to shop in. Espresso is proffered upon entry, and the chocolate-colored suede bombers, worn denim oxford shirts, and cotton crewnecks are casual enough for the café (Australians ingest a steady stream of long blacks and flat whites throughout the day), yet tailored just enough for the office and dinner. Images courtesy of Karen Woo.
Brunswick Street Bookstore
305 Brunswick St., Fitzroy
There’s something about hunting down the local independent bookstore, choosing a new title and savoring it (marking and underlining as you go) when on vacation. Maybe our concentration is better when a pinging inbox isn’t our first scroll of the day, or maybe it’s the stimulation of a new place and people that gets the imagination going. Brunswick Street Bookstore has been serving up incredible books to Fitzroy residents for nearly thirty years, and a browse through the heaped shelves when you’re in the neighborhood is a must.
Neighborhood Wine
1 Reid St., Fitzroy
Fitzroy is the epicenter of Melbourne’s wine-bar scene, and Neighborhood Wine embodies the best of its casual, drop-in-and-say-hi vibe. Every minute spent in the wood-paneled, candlelit space feels like being in a warm cocoon…with wine and snacks on tap. For the solo traveler, this spot is one to bookmark: Slide onto a stool at the bar for a glass of something unusual the sommelier has kindly recommended, friendly Melburnians on either side will probably start chatting to you over platters of salumi and, inevitably, more wine. Suddenly, you’ve befriended the locals, that solo drink has turned into supper, and you stayed for a wedge of plum tart dolloped with almond cream.
Marion Wine
53 Gertrude St., Fitzroy
Marion is one of those ridiculously inviting, vibey bars that you stop into for “one, just one,” and stay for dinner. Why? If you’ve managed to snag a coveted window seat, the people-watching is so good, you can’t leave. The wine list travels from Australia’s Yarra and Clare valleys to the best of Bordeaux. Every bottle and bite here is considered: Franciacorta by the glass in place of prosecco; complex, spicy, burnt honey instead of the usual sweet stuff; and verjus over vinegar in the salad dressing. So commandeer those window seats, settle in for a long evening of rare sips, and order the halloumi with that spicy honey and the fork-tender roast chicken. Images courtesy of Harvard Wang.
Black Pearl
304 Brunswick St., Fitzroy
Truly one of the world’s great cocktail bars, Black Pearl makes many cocktails incredibly well, including the best iteration of the ultimate late-night fuel—the espresso martini—that we’ve had this year. Black Pearl sticks to what it does best: Bar snacks are few (get the sausage roll), and the booze options are many. The bartenders here are the best in the business, and if you’re overwhelmed by the depth of the list, give them a few pointers and they’ll whip up a special just for you.
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.