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Michael Harden

Michael Harden

Articles (1)

Bartender of the Year: Time Out Melbourne Bar Awards

Bartender of the Year: Time Out Melbourne Bar Awards

Winner: Nick Tesar, Bar Liberty A core skill for any bartender of note is mastery of the art of unflappable multi-tasking. Nick Tesar got the memo and then turbo-charged it. Not only is he a calming, intuitive presence at his current bar job at Fitzroy’s Bar Liberty, he’s also one part of the Marionette liqueur team, lends a hand at Victorian vermouth label Maidenii and co-authors books with business partner Shaun Byrne, including one on low- and no-alcohol cocktails and an upcoming title that’s all about punch. The man has booze on the brain, in a good way. For Tesar, bartending is all about the customer experience. “Obviously it’s important that you’re educated and are serious about what you’re pouring,” he says. “But the real key to bartending is being able to read a customer and deliver the experience that’s going to make them happy. You’re a host, you’re there to make sure that they have a good time.  “Even if someone comes in with only ten dollars to spend, you want to make sure they’re going to get an experience that they’re going to enjoy and remember. If your customers are comfortable and relaxed then it means you have control of the room.” Tesar hails from Queensland and arrived in Melbourne seven years ago to pursue a career in the bar world. He started at Gin Palace before heading to Lûmé, where he was part of the opening team. That launched his love affair with liqueurs, which led to his involvement with Marionette.   Given that his default position is relaxed, T

Listings and reviews (4)

Bar Margaux

Bar Margaux

4 out of 5 stars

Nobody would be shocked to hear that the cocktails at Bar Margaux are good. The CBD basement bar has excellent DNA, with a lineage that includes trophy-laden cocktail saloon the Everleigh and dive bar-esque Heartbreaker, where the booze quality is equal to the late-night debauchery. What is perhaps more surprising is that the cocktails at Michael and Zara Madrusan’s third bar are only one part of a very smart equation that, in true Melbourne style, thoroughly and successfully blurs the lines between bar and restaurant. A Melbourne take on a New York version of a Parisian bistro, Bar Margaux ticks all the right design tropes – chequerboard floor, shiny white subway tiles, booths, wired glass dividers, golden back bar lighting – and deftly assembles them so that the space sidesteps cliché and becomes very much right place, right time. Michael Madrusan’s time tending bar in New York was well spent, given how intrinsically he understands the kind of spaces a late-night joint like this needs – privacy in shadowy booths down one end, room for display around the bar. There’s also been serious thought put into the food. Like the fitout, the menu is a roll call of classics, offering the kind of French bistro dishes you’d expect in a place that looks like this. What you might not expect in a watering hole where the kitchen’s open until 3am (and beyond on weekends) is that you’re going to get such a good French onion soup or credible steak frites or such a ridiculously rich lobster croq

Romeo Lane

Romeo Lane

5 out of 5 stars

When out-of-town friends, in Melbourne for just one night, pop the question of where to go for a drink, Romeo Lane is the answer. The reason? It ticks all the expected Melbourne bar boxes – laneway location, obscure signage, civilised opening hours, educated service from tattooed and/or bearded bar folk – but then exceeds those expectations via a near-obsessive attention to detail so the bar sails past cliché and into truly great territory.  Romeo Lane was once the living room of a 19th-century residence. Its compact proportions, central communal table, open fireplace and lighting augmented by a wash of red neon from the Pellegrini’s sign across the lane gives the room an intense, flatteringly lit intimacy. Candlelight is reflected in beautiful cut crystal glassware and decanters and the low sheen of dark timber. When a Martini arrives, it’s perfectly chilled and diluted, sits on a silver coaster well-suited to the purpose and is accompanied by a small (cut) glass dish for olive pits. There’s an undeniable retro vibe to the place but drinking here is not so much stepping back in time as stepping out of it. This is where the cocktails come in. Owners Rita Ambroz and Joe Jones both have a keen appreciation for balance and restraint in their drinks. They nod to classic cocktail tradition with their correct glassware, quality ice, pared back garnishes and just two or three ingredients chosen not for brand or price or prestige but for the fact that they’re the ones that will get t

Byrdi

Byrdi

4 out of 5 stars

There should be another word for what Byrdi is doing. Bar doesn’t quite cut it, despite the fact that dispensing booze is at the core of what it does. It seems more like some kind of lab where you get to play guinea pig to their scientist. There’s been nothing quite like it in Melbourne since Der Raum, which makes sense given that co-owner Luke Whearty cut his cocktail teeth at that highly influential bastion of eccentricity.  In more recent times Whearty and his partner, Aki Nishikura, have been picking up truckloads of awards and accolades at their Singaporean bar Operation Dagger, where they earned a reputation for opening up the conversation about what drinks can be. Now they’re in Melbourne – in Melbourne Central, to be exact – and are mixing things up here. The fact that Byrdi is located in a shopping centre and has the kind of earthy/organic fitout that you might mistake for an Aesop outlet is just the first part of adjusting your thinking. It’s a strong showing from Design Office, with the room’s segmented, almost chilly minimalism saved by the warmth of the materials used – Victorian ash, coconut husk flooring, bluestone. It’s going to look even better with some wear and tear. The drinks, made and served by a fleet of staff swaddled in crushed linen, are highly original and highly delicious in equal parts. There’s so much exciting technique here, plus a strong sense of seasonality. Techniques commonly associated with kitchens are front and centre – fermenting, smokin

Tetto Di Carolina

Tetto Di Carolina

4 out of 5 stars

If the purpose of a local bar is to reflect its neighbourhood, then Tetto di Carolina obviously got the memo. The rooftop bar component of the Carolina complex on Toorak Road that includes Bar Carolina and Cantina Carolina is smooth, suave, expensively dressed and comfortably luxurious. Tetto’s conservative in its choices, but in a way that’s dependable, not old fashioned. It’s a good-looking, clean-lined space, understandable given that co-owner Joe Mammone (Il Bacaro, Marameo) has Chris Connell as his go-to architect. The room mostly sticks with upholstery and neutral tones, aside from some flourishes like the ochre-coloured feature wall near the walnut bar, which is overhung by an impressive bespoke light fitting that adds a touch of well-mannered steampunk to proceedings. Then there’s the domed canvas roof, fully retractable in balmy weather, which is going to make Tetto a lot of friends when summer kicks in. The booze list is not out to impress anybody with its edginess. The four pages of wine are a roll call of familiar names – Krug, Bollinger, Pieropan, Leeuwin Estate, Paringa Estate, Moss Wood – at prices you’d expect to pay in this neck of the woods. There’s also a page of cocktails, which should be your first port of call. The drinks riff on classics and lean towards the infused and the herbal. The Wall Street, for example, brings together surprisingly delicious sandalwood-infused bourbon with Martini Rubero and maple syrup. Served on the rocks, it’s a drink that te