Named for INXS’s third album, the irony here is that Shabooh Shoobah-era INXS would be far more at home on Brunswick’s Sydney Road in beer-and-bands joints like the Retreat Hotel. This bar has the mature style of late-era Michael Hutchence without the pomp and ceremony; the snacks are simple, the cocktails pre-mixed and the wine list barely longer than an album tracklist.
Housed in an old butcher shop, Shabooh Shoobah is the sort of chill neighbourhood place where you might have to step over a pooch reclining next to the roadside tables to order your next round. The interior is split in two by an archway, one side plush red banquettes the other high bar stools arranged around a retro-light-strung bar with a prominent turntable and vinyl-stacked shelves. Unfortunately you can’t book but you can be guaranteed a warm welcome, neighbour or not.
Owners Hootan Heydari and Emily Bitto are no strangers to hospitality, having kick-started Carlton’s Heartattack and Vine as well as Wide Open Road and a Minor Place. In the petite kitchen is another Heartattack and Vine alum, Sam Steck, whose simple-but-smart snack food is the driving rhythm section to Heydari’s front-of-house performance. It’s a greatest hits of the Mediterranean with manchego, artichoke and quail egg pintxos, stracciatella with braised peppers and curry leaves and Ligurian olives and lemon myrtle.
The nduja soldiers see the spicy salami paste wedged into fingers of toasted bread dipped, not into eggs, but a light caper and lemon vegan mayonnaise and topped with a crunch of cornichon. But the headliner is a brown butter cracker topped with a pickled shallot and Ortiz anchovy that lays siege to Movida’s crown as best one-handed anchovy appetiser.
The wine list is Victorian-heavy with a sprinkling of international guests; try a fig leaf rebujito, a sherry-based concoction from Southern Spain, it’s the after-work drink you didn’t know you needed. Coburg lager is on the single tap – and comes in a butcher (200ml) or a larger 330ml offering – but there are few alternative brews so fans of big beers lists might be disappointed.
All in all, the breakout hit from INXS’s Shabooh Shoobah offers some words of advice for the team as this wine bar, and that is: don’t change.