Welcome to our new series On the House, in which the tenders of our favourite bars talk us through their spiritual homes, glass by glass. First up, co-owner and sommelier at Melbourne's Bar Liberty, Banjo Harris Plane.
Bar Liberty is an alcohol bar. By that I mean
that it's not just a wine bar, or a cocktail bar, or whatever. We
serve all types of fermented beverages, and all of them are (in our
minds) excellent. We got sick of being served industrialised
no-flavour lagers in fancy restaurants. We were over being offered
bland, commercial pinot gris in otherwise outstanding cocktail
bars. We are a place for everyone to drink everything. And it's all
To start: a glass of our bespoke sherry-esque blend, using Pennyweight. Over summer, it's 75 per cent fresh palomino juice blended with 25 per cent Constance Fino. We'll change it with the seasons, but for now it's all crunchy almonds, mildly oxidative and very saline. Smells a bit like sake. It's a no-brainer with oysters, but slays the prawns with miso and macadamia as well. Also, we serve this from our modified bar globe that roams around the bar like the best Champagne trolley you've never seen.
To accompany your meal: a bottle of chenin blanc. We've got a couple of feature pages on the list - at the moment we're looking at chenin blanc and Beaujolais. We have chenin blanc from four different countries and will be unceasing in our search for more. Chenin is a grape that is complex yet refreshing and can be drunk with a wide array of foods. We have a menu full of bold, assertive flavours, and the fleshiness of chenin can stand up to more than you might expect, always backed up by a lightning bolt of clean acidity.
To finish your meal: 50/50 Club. We're serving 50 grams of Comté with 50ml of vin jaune. At the moment it's 24-month-old Marcel Petite Comté with 2005 Didier Grappe vin jaune. They both come from the Jura, and together are one of the finest food and wine matches around. They both have a palate of nutty background flavours and a real salty hit. The intensity of the acidity is rounded out by the creaminess of the cheese. Spot on.
To finish your night: a nip of overmatured Bourbon served from the rear spare tyre of a porcelain 1956 Ford Thunderbird. The whiskey is over 30 years old and is starting to sweeten (in a molasses kinda way), thus is pretty hedonistic.
If none of that tickles your fancy, then we've got a deep list of beers, plenty of wine of every colour and shape, and well thought-out cocktails that are delicious. There are also a few bottles of wine that are (probably) older than you are. Plus, if you don't drink alcohol (either temporarily or permanently), we've still got stuff for you - we're making our own ginger beer and grapefruit soda, and have a nifty cold-drip coffee set-up. We got you covered.
Give me Liberty or give me death.
Bar Liberty, 234 Johnston St, Fitzroy, Vic. Kitchen open Wed-Sat 5pm-11pm, Sun noon-9pm; bar open until 1am Mon-Sat, 11pm Sundays.
Banjo Harris Plane is co-owner and sommelier at Bar Liberty.
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