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  • Bars
  • Collingwood
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. Two smiling bartenders mixing drinks behind the bar.
    Photograph: Supplied / Commis
  2. Plates of food, a cocktail and a glass of red wine on tables in a wine bar.
    Photograph: Supplied / Commis
  3. Agnolotti with sauce and herbs.
    Photograph: Supplied / Commis

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Commis doesn’t take itself too seriously, but a lot of creativity has gone into the ever-evolving menu and never at the expense of good old-fashioned fun

Much fuss is made about Collingwood eatery Commis’ connections to Gerald’s Bar, but even if you didn’t know its trio of co-owners’ were alumni at the Carlton North perennial crowd favourite, you’d be able to distinguish its pedigree. 

Stepping into Commis’ warm confines is like crossing the threshold of a friend’s house – service is effortlessly affable, laidback and jovial without being effusive or overbearing. Framed artwork depicting fresh produce pepper the walls, and seating is ample – you can choose between leather booths, standalone tables and a generously proportioned courtyard in the event of good weather. 

The playful drinks menu and the seasonally changing food menu reflect the wine bar’s joie de vivre. Open your drinks menu one way and be met with a ‘traditionalist’ selection divided by type, but flip it around and open the ‘expressionist’ section and you’ll encounter headings like ‘a quick drink while I think about what I really want’, ‘something old’ (remind me of my last trip to Europe’) and ‘something new’ (my drink is a fashion accessory). Wines are similarly demarcated into emotively labelled sections like ‘we f%#king deserve it’ and ‘slap me in the face and make me feel something’. 

I enquire after the cocktail ‘Jessica Hates Everything’ and am told it’s named after an aunty known for abhorring every drink made in her honour. It’s a cocktail specifically concocted for its end user – I’m told I look as though I’d like a sour beverage that’s not too sweet (they’re 100% correct), but if you fear being perceived, feel free to delineate your preferences instead. 

The resultant gin sour crafted with a locally sourced apricot brandy and a housemade earl grey syrup, with the ornate glass boasting a rim of ground earl grey sweetened with sugar, is one of the best cocktails I’ve tasted. There’s no mocktail section on the menu, but in similar fashion, the bar staff will whip up anything you fancy. 

Descriptions of food on the constantly changing single-page menu are kept minimal – there’s flavoured popcorn, oyster, bread with ‘sexy butter’, frito and hibachi skewer in the entrees section, and the curious additions of a ‘chef snack’ and a very reasonably priced ‘staff meal’ at $15 for a glimpse behind the curtain. Further details on nearly all these things are supplied by our divulging waitstaff – the chef snack when we visit is a small, raw red onion topped with a dollop of mustard and miso, while the staff meal is a bowl of dahl. 

The frito is a delightfully creamy mélange of pulled kangaroo tail and mashed potato, encased in small rounds of crisp batter. The sexy butter turns out to be a smooth and velvety spread encompassing fennel, honey and herbs. 

In the mussels escabeche, tartly dressed plump bivalves arrive beside a rich and indulgent rouille whipped from potatoes and saffron – we’re each given a spoon and told to communally eat from the primary bowl it’s served in. The piping hot baked crab gratin almost has the consistency of an apple crumble and is enlivened by a generous squeeze of lemon. 

Again, instructions are forthcoming for the halved zucchinis bathed in labna and za’atar – the yoghurt dressing has preserved lemon, which renders it salty, but we’re told to eat it alongside the under-salted zucchini for an optimal experience. Just like the alcove through which you can see action unfolding in the kitchen, the glimpse Commis allows its diners into the way these dishes are lovingly prepared further lends to its charm. 

Cabbage is cooked for four hours before it’s pressed into little cakes and chargrilled, garnished in dukkah and sitting in an almond curry that’s reminiscent of an Indian lime pickle. The buttery housemade tagliatelle with pulled lamb neck is a sumptuous highlight in a string of highlights, while kangaroo’s less gamey counterpart of wallaby topside is cooked to underdone perfection and paired with a golden beetroot sauce.

The ‘pudding’ of the day turns out to be a light creme patissiere that has the appearance and consistency of mash, almost savoury with the accompanying poached rhubarb and bee pollen. 

Commis doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is not to say the food and drinks it serves up aren’t serious – a lot of thought and creativity has gone into the meticulously curated, ever evolving menu, but never at the expense of good old-fashioned fun. 

Sonia Nair
Written by
Sonia Nair


56-58 Johnston Street
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