If you want tequila you go to Little Blood, if you want bourbon you go to Kodiak Bar, if you want rum you go to The Rum Diary Bar – you won’t have far to walk (or wobble) as all three are on Brunswick Street. So what’s with all the specialist bars? Clearly the good people of Fitzroy like to keep their spirit-drinking pretty specific. And we can only applaud them. There’s no better way to get to know your way round one style of distilling than spending an evening dedicated to sampling as many permeations of the drink in question as possible.
From Antigua to Venezuela there are more than 125 rums available – the menu skips from one exotic destination to another – and whether you take yours straight up or served in a cocktail, sampling the wares of this watering hole is made a whole lot easier thanks to the sharing menu.
The nautical theme is more endearing than clichéd – think reclaimed timber bar, an odd model ship at full mast and aging rums stored in little barrels – and quotes from Hunter S Thompson and Ernest Hemingway, among other great drinkers, should get you in the mood.
Our evening started – as all memorable nights should, with a cocktail or two. First up was The Foxy Bingo – made with Plantation white rum, Aperol, lime juice, pomegranate and rose syrup, peach bitters and a splash of bubbly, a delightfully fruity number with floral edges and ripe fruit notes.
I spotted the barrel-aged Rum Negroni and immediately put in my order. Originally born in Florence 1919, The Rum Diary’s secret house recipe has been barrel-aged to enhance the bittersweet and herbaceous notes and add a charred, woody finish.
As I do when I visit an interesting venue – I went hunting for the chef at the grill upstairs. The menu is a mix of South American, Caribbean and Spanish-inspired street food all cooked on this amazing outdoor charcoal grill. This man has a kitchen many chefs would die for, overlooking the Fitzroy skyline.
You will find a mix of seafood and meat dishes using interesting cuts including beef hearts, beef short ribs, as well as some tasty vegetarian dishes.
Smaller dishes start under $10 and we kicked things off with Padron peppers, perhaps some of the feistiest we have ever sampled. They said one in five would be the killer – but in the serving we devoured one in five were tame! With the food changing depending on what’s available at the market we then had the fried empanada of the week (juicy beef with hard-boiled egg) with lemon aioli and chimichurri.
Moving onto the larger dishes, which were all priced between $12 to $16. Not bad for a decent feed. Charcoal-roasted octopus tentacles with Romesco sauce, green olive and morcilla was a trio made in heaven. Smokey and tender, straight from the fire to the plate to our table. Getting close to breaking point, we finished up with the grilled flank steak, fresh lemon and more herby chimichurri. I much preferred this version to the one we had at Popol Nah on Lygon Street.
Get a few mates together and do the Fitzroy Street spirit crawl. And when you start to get a bit peckish, make your way straight to The Rum Diary Bar, order some food, maybe see if you can get access to the secret rooftop seating area and watch a talented man armed with simple produce make amazing food while you knock back a few rums neat or on the rocks.
334 Brunswick Street,
Fitzroy, Melbourne VIC 3065
Ph. 03 9939 0616