The latest addition to Windsor’s party district is a gothic-romantic-kitschy bar with all-black tables, floors, walls and ceilings foisted with a hoarder’s collection of vintage bric-a-brac à la wooden tennis racquets, bird cages, ornate frames and dollhouses. Add the Edison globes and chandeliers and we have to assume someone went to a Salvo’s warehouse armed only with a wad of bills and a Post-It reading “whimsy”.
Cocktails are the main event, but for those preferring wine, there’s a tidy list of roughly ten reds, ten whites, and a single rosé that challenge neither palate nor pocket, being mostly easy-drinkers hovering around the $60 mark. A focus on the Antipodes pays off, with selections from all the big-hitting valleys as well as smaller winemaking regions including Geelong, Orange and a fresh and floral Nick O’Leary Riesling from Canberra.
Bar snacks ride the curious retro-Australiana trend that’s gone from 0-to-100 prawn cocktails. Given head chef Paul Turner’s time on the pans at places like Cutler & Co and Donovans, there was always going to be some zhuzhing, though this doesn’t always translate from page to plate - the chorizo oil the prawn toast is fried in is too subtle for us, as is the lemon ash on the hot pork crackers. Save space instead for palm-sized chicken sangas that stuff chewy, bun-shaped pretzels with shreds of juicy dark meat and punchy fermented chilli.
Boracay might still be closed but a trip to the tropics is found in vodka shaken with lychee liqueur and orange blossom spritz, its sweetness defly balanced by calamansi, a tart Filipino citrus. Strong Espresso Martinis – shot through with chocolate bitters and topped with torched coconut marshmallow foam – are both frivolous and straight up delicious. For sophisticates, there’s a Negroni menu, including a remake starring pineapple plantation rum. It’s stiff but smooth, fragrant with fruit but subtle on the palate.
Here’s a bar with its finger firmly on the trend pulse. From the 90s-throwback snacks and dedicated menu of Negronis to its spot on the happening Windsor wedge of Chapel, Lover knows its crowd – young, polished, adventurous but not quite risky – and makes itself in their image. For the cocktails alone they’re worth a second date, and with a little recalibrating on the food front, they could well turn into a full-time fling.