With summer starting to bear down on us, many of the city’s movers and shakers in the bar scene have decided to put the weather to good use in an attempt to get the locals to find their new hidden gems….
A great new bar unlocking it’s doors quite recently is Bar Ampere – Vernen Chalker’s gin aficionado. You know a place is going to be good when you look at the heritage it is coming from – Gin Palace, Madame Brussels and Collins Quarter. This is a bar that you can come to on the way home from a night on the town/on the way to work (if that’s your thing) or to kick on all night handily nestled in Russell Place in what was previously a small car park/substation. And that is where the name stems from – Ampere is the measurement of electrical current.
Walking past the bar, it brings back memories from my many travels through Europe, with Bar Ampere’s specialisation in apertivi and digestives. This was in full effect the night I visited with many of the now-regulars opting for Montenegro’s with a slice of orange and a melting ice-cube placed atop the glass.
The bar top is still a work in progress but when it is finished – awaiting the addition of chrome to support the theme of ‘the machine age’, will fit right in with the surrounding fittings.
Talking to the bar staff you realise how much thought has gone into the small space. What really works well is the decision to make the physical bar areas small as possible so that drinkers sitting on opposite sides of the bar can converse at will. I saw it happen on a few occasions during the night – so it definitely works on a subconscious level.
Inside is very reminiscent of the machine age, keeping the bare walls and fittings and subtly adding their own flourishes. I did like that the toilet still has the original wall of the garage with graffiti and all in full view.
Out the back is ‘The Swamp Bar’ thus named not for the look and feel of the place, but when the front bar becomes too packed for comfort the barista’s can usher through newcomers to ensure space remains comfortable.
The food coming out of the kitchen from chefs Michael Nunn and Michelle Boyle were of fine dining standard, served on silver trays in a very european style. They opt for smaller dishes which you can eat comfortably without finning yourself up. A twist I had not seen before was the lack of knives on offer. Instead the team have decided to use splades – to which one diner then asked for two of them in order to eat her meal. But the waiter stood his ground and offered the explanation of how to use the utensil to the diner which seemed happy enough.
Bar Ampere is going to appeal to every type of Melbournian I care to think of. From the person wanting a quiet spot to read a book and sip their way through the drinks menu to the weekend and after work crowd looking for a different scene – this place will suit one and all. How do I see myself using the bar I hear you ask? As in Europe, I will head here for pre dinner drinks and then will return for a nightcap before heading home. It seems like the perfect place to do this and with barmen like Sammy shaking the cocktails and telling-it-like-it-is, I can see this place is on the verge of blowing up big-time.
16 Russell Place
Tel. (03) 9654 0533