Bar Liberty does gonzo rather well, which is good news for its Fitzroy/cusp-of-Collingwood audience. The signage, for instance: take a ladder, add some black spray paint and, hey presto, the previous tenant's shingle is suitably modified. Or the fried-egg mural on the outer wall - Bar Liberty is in a street-art hotspot and the local collective has agreed to keep to a food theme. And let's not forget the replica 1956 Ford Thunderbird Bourbon dispenser.
Bar Liberty, which opened on Johnston Street last week, comes via a newly formed hospo-trade supergroup, but it hasn't disappeared up its own fundament with self-importance. Attica alumni Banjo Harris Plane and Michael Bascetta have teamed up with Rockwell & Sons' Casey Wall and Manu Potoi (who also did time at Attica - yes, it's complicated) and opened the kind of bar they'd like to hang out in.
Bar Liberty's Instagram feed describes it as "a place for everyone, to drink everything" and the catholic instincts are keenly felt across a drinks offer that has as much to say about beer, sherry, sake and spirits as it does Harris Plane's 130-strong wine list. The former GT Sommelier of the Year winner has a love affair with chenin blanc, riesling, rosé and skin-fermented, low-intervention wines, but he's also pulled out all the stops sourcing broadly and deeply into some serious back-vintages.
They're no slouches on the cocktail front, either. The trend for pre-bottled cocktails has freed them up to get inventive on the technique. Take the Millions of Peaches, Peaches For You: peaches are charred under a cloche with the smoke from lemon thyme, marinated overnight with Bourbon, then mixed with orange bitters and lime juice. Bottle and serve.
Wall also has a few tricks up his sleeve, the ex-Cutler & Co chef busting out techniques put on ice by the more streetwise Rockwell & Sons. Snackage includes thin slivers of fried potato topped with puréed mussels, pickled red onion and lovage powder, and cured scallops and lightly fermented buttermilk teaming up with herb oil and dried cavolo nero. Among the bigger dishes you'll find "risi and corn", a rich and cheesy dish of charred fresh corn kernels, both fermented and fresh corn juice, pecorino and plenty of black pepper.
It's a Scandi-ish space, without getting too wearyingly ascetic about it, and there's plenty of room to grow, with a rear courtyard potentially in the works and the upstairs to be turned by September into a - well, they won't say, but watch this space. Vive la Liberty.
Bar Liberty, 234 Johnston Street, Fitzroy; kitchen open Wed-Sat 5pm-11pm, Sun noon-9pm; bar open until 1am Mon-Sat, 11pm on Sundays.