David Bailey’s famous portrait of Michael Caine dominates the ephemera-stacked bar at Gerald’s and, given the actor’s ability to remain cool as he ages, he is a worthy patron saint of this North Carlton stayer. There is a photo of the Italian Job, Get Carter and Dark Knight star on the men’s toilet, too, part of the bar’s eclectic look that sees Russian cosmonauts share wall space with Grace Jones, George Best and ceramic toreadors.
The knee-knocking seating nods to the intimate neighbourhood bars of Europe as does the hand-scrawled menu that changes on a whim, so you might get South Australian sardines with fennel and a sweet hit of currants or chicken galantine with a side of tart pickles. Sides like kipfler potatoes cooked with olives and rosemary are perfect for a sharing snack.
This is the bar for aperitifs with a solid selection of vermouth, pastis and ouzo from all over the Continent to get the palate started. The cocktail menu is prefaced with a quote from author Kingsley Amis throwing shade at the pina colada so naturally what follows is a collection of classic-inspired drinks like the Pink Suicide, vodka, rhubarb, ginger and lime shaken with egg white to a full froth or a seasonal sour that changes with the Melbourne weather. There are housemade non-alcoholic sodas as well.
This petite bar packs a 200-plus strong list of wines, so ask the staff what is on as the by-the-glass menu changes depending on what is open at the time. That’s the appeal of Gerald’s you can pull up a chair, have a chat with the all-over-it staff and find out what is new with the food and drinks today, and know that whatever you order, it will be great.