Time Out says
The main players have changed, but they bring the same kind of awesome to Fitzroy’s inspirational place for wine and more
We know, we know: we crowned Bar Liberty the Best Wine Bar (and our Bar of the Year) back in 2018. But things have changed since then: Josh Begbie (ex-Restaurant Shik, Poly, Brawn, Embla) has taken over from Banjo Harris Plane as the restaurant manager and wine buyer, and Zackary Leon Furst (ex- Ides, Attica) has been brought on board to take over Casey Wall’s responsibilities as head chef. Nick Tesar (who won Time Out's Bartender of the Year for 2020) is still the assistant manager, in charge of crafting the cocktail program while juggling his responsibilities as co-owner of Marionette liqueur.
Let’s drill it down. Why are they the cream of the crop again this year? Despite the changing of the guard, Bar Liberty’s aspirations are as clear as ever. The team want this bar to be the first stop for locals and tourists who want a world-class wine experience. And boy, do they deliver.
The wine list is still driven by lo-fi principles, but this wine list is full of bangers from producers like Jacques Selosse, Radikon, Ganevat, Jean-Yves Peron and Olek Bondonio (to name a few), who produce clean examples of these wines, rather than mistaking wine faults for character in minimal-intervention wines. And it’s not just the wine list that is compelling. The cocktails and spirits list includes classics like Negronis made with a local gin and originals like Sour Grapes (Starward Wine Barrel Edition whisky with pinot noir and yuzu). A flight of Empirical Spirit Co’s vacuum-distilled, koji-fermented, grain-based spirits, made by ex-Noma chefs (which are not yet available in Australia, but brought to the bar through Tesar’s middle-of-the-night online purchasing antics) will change everything you think you know about spirits. Oh, and you can still do those shots of bourbon out of a toy car.
Food’s received a little shake-up, but favourites like the grilled flatbread and cacio e pepe have not been touched. Order the flatbread and you’ll get the option of pairing the freshly grilled sourdough with butter curd, chicken jus with kraut, or smoked eel dip. The salt-and-pepper vegetables have been replaced with thinly shaved, tempura-battered slices of cauliflower dusted in nutmeg salt, which is more batter than cauliflower and a perfect partner for booze. Pippies are served under smoked butter and wild garlic instead of XO and Chinese doughnuts, so Furst’s touches to the menu will leave regulars feeling that the food is same-same-but-different.
The new Bar Liberty is much like the old Bar Liberty, but updated to appeal to the way we drink and dine today. It’s still a triple threat in wine, cocktails and food, which is something we don’t see in wine bars across Melbourne, earning it the title of Time Out Melbourne’s 2020 Best Wine Bar.
Time Out Awards
234 Johnston St
|Opening hours:||Mon-Sat 5pm-midnight; Sun noon-10pm|