1. Warmly lit bar full of guests and a bartender.
    Photograph: Supplied
  2. An overhead view of five dishes, including oysters and charred greens.
    Photograph: March
  3. Woman smelling a glass of wine next to a laughing woman at a bar.
    Photograph: Ides March
  4. A moody, dimly lit foyer at Peter Gunn's March.
    Photograph: March
  5. Sweet and sour quail on a plate.
    Photograph: Ides March
  6. Plate of freshly shucked oysters with dressing and a fork.
    Photograph: Ides March
  7. A diner getting a mussel out from its shell.
    Photograph: March
  8. Sauce is drizzled onto a slab of fried potato topped with chives.
    Photograph: March
  • Restaurants
  • Collingwood
  • Recommended



5 out of 5 stars

March plays a serious drinks and snacks game, but a playful energy behind the bar makes it easy for locals to let their hair down


Time Out says

Heading to Peter Gunn’s tiny Collingwood bar (a post-lockdown neighbour to his illustrious restaurant Ides), you might fret you’re in for a rather stuffy excursion. A swish cocktail bar can feel a little formal at the best of times, but a swish cocktail bar adjoined to a fine diner? Surely, a mere sneeze will feel out of place. Gratefully, we discover March to be nothing of the sort. Though the sleek womb-like space naturally smoulders with a sense of occasion, it dodges the pomp factor by taking its cues from izakayas and casual tapas bars. There’s a relaxed energy evident in irreverent splashes of contemporary art and bouncy funk music that buoys us along to our seats. It’s as comfortable as a modern cocktail bar can be, though it aspires to be more than that. March moonlights as a wine bar and late-night diner, too. 

We settle in under the hushed lighting and the staff busily set about making us feel welcome. They’re quick to allay our concerns about not being quite hungry enough to eat a lot (we’ve indulged in Biang Biang’s generous bowls of spicy noods for lunch, whoops) and our bags and coats are placed on elegant wall hooks. A shimmering silver menu contains a concise but intriguing list of classic cocktails, wines and snacks, all priced fairly reasonably considering Ides’ talent is at the helm. 

There’s an extra food menu of specials on the board should we be so inclined, but we’re happy to stick to the regular roll call. You can easily eat a whole four-course meal at March or you can have a bite or two – it’s up to you. The intimate bar-centric design places the drinks wizards front and centre, around which there’s room for 12 guests to watch the magic unfold, though it’s not really a “look at what I can do” show in the same way other cocktail bars can be. Within the first hour, guests from both near and far begin to roll in, and the vibe is as happening and heaving as any other bar on the strip. 

The first cocktail to come out is something called a Pendennis Club, perfumed with apricot and lime essential oils, a scent I imagine some wealthy Parisian great aunt would wear. It’s somehow both characterfully old-fashioned and contemporary at the same time – a juicy blend of gin and fruit. My partner gets a Martini, a smooth-as-satin take on the classic drink, based on a foundation of Animus’ multi-award-winning Arboretum gin. Complex and herbaceous, the Kyneton-grown ingredients span the native gamut, with fresh strawberry gum leaf, lemon thyme, rosemary, oranges and native bush tomato painstakingly balancing out the more traditional gin notes of juniper and coriander seed. It’s a spicy and sensual drop, strong and sophisticated, and ultimately – a better Martini than we’ve had in some time. A pickled onion on a skewer offers a beautifully rounded savoury note, not at all vinegary or overpowering in the least. 

Onto the wines we go, a list composed largely of French and Victorian drops. A Tassie pinot from Wolfe at the Door for me and a Yarra Valley chardy from Bobar for my partner go down seductively with the first round of eats. We’ve opted for natural oysters with chorizo vinaigrette, the duck liver parfait with plum jelly, and the jumbo quail. 

The oysters are plump and meaty, a little smoky from the chorizo and perfectly balanced by the acidity of the vinaigrette and vino. I can only speak higher praise of the liver pâté, which comes sandwiched between a glittery shiso-scattered red gel and a crumbly tart. It’s astonishingly melt-in-your-mouth good, the kind of bar snack that makes you realise the food at a bar (if it's on offer) really is as important as the drinks. The salty, sweet and sour quail is the standout, fun to eat with your hands and served alongside moist towelettes to clean up afterwards. We’d go back for that alone.

The staff keep an eye on us, but it doesn’t feel gloomy or stifling. Instead, it feels like we’re at a dinner party at a friend’s house. They’re shaking and stirring while they have a laugh with one another (no pomp or theatrics needed), we’re chatting to our neighbours about how great the food is, and the seats around the bar are packed. What we’d anticipated to be a quick and discreet taste test of a few drinks and snacks has evolved into a full-blown night out – something only a truly great bar can inspire. 

We end the night with a pair of whiskey-based cocktails. My Highball is a warming blend of spiced apple, local rye whiskey from Gospel and a dash of soda, while my partner’s is something called a Midnight in Monaco, a seductive amaro and whiskey concoction with barrel-aged bitters. It’s the last our wallets can take, but there are a couple more cocktails we’d like to try next time.

Ides may be the fancier option for a multi-course elevated meal, but this slinky dive is a hell of a lot more sexy. Our only advice is to go hungrier than not – the elevated bites are worth the extra spend, and they’ll line your belly for some of the most impeccably crafted drinks money can buy on Smith Street.

Still thirsty? Check out the 50 best bars in Melbourne right now.


90 Smith Street
Opening hours:
Wed to Sat, 6pm-late; Sun, 2pm-late
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