Restaurant News

New Melbourne restaurant and wine bar Brico charms with simplicity

This new Carlton North wine bar with a gun team is a confident nod to European wine bars. The team here aren’t reinventing the wheel — and that is Brico’s charm.

By Jordan Kretchmer
From left to right: Brico's Phil Bracey, Tegan Ella Hendel, Simon Ball-Smith, Robyn Nethercote and Josh Begbie. Photography: Dominic Xavier
Moving into a building with a rich history can create certain expectations, but for the team at Brico – a new Melbourne restaurant and wine bar that's opened in the building that previously housed Little Andorra, Tansy's, and The Fives – it's a badge of honour.
"This building [is] famous for anyone that's ever been in the Melbourne hospitality industry. It's got such rich heritage," says Brico co-owner Josh Begbie.
Acknowledging its roots and citing inspiration is core to the Brico team. It's even in the name with Brico a play on the French word 'bricolage', a creation made from a diverse range of available things. And Brico is certainly a sum of its parts: a collation of ideas from the team's favourite European wine bars; a tribute to the iconic Melbourne venues before it; and the team and their respective skills, with impressive resumes spanning London's Brawn; Sydney's Poly and 121 BC; and Melbourne's Embla, Bar Liberty and MoVida Aqui.
Snacks at Brico. Photography: Ella Hendel
"We love places that have a sense of honesty to them. They're not always the most polished or the fanciest venues. But there is a consideration in everything, says Begbie.
When we clarify the pronunciation of it ("brik-oh"?), Begbie isn't prescriptive. "You can put whatever spin you want on [it], but it sort of does come across as a little bit Italian or Mediterranean, but also a bit ocker," he says.
Begbie is joined by co-owner Phil Bracey, alongside their respective partners Robyn Nethercote (front of house and operations) and Tegan Ella Hendel (design and art direction), who all met working together in London over a decade ago. "When we met in London, we bonded over our favourite neighbourhood bistros and wine bars [across] Europe," says Begbie.
Oysters with white pepper mignonette. Photography: Ella Hendel
On the food front, they've enlisted Tasmanian-born chef Simon Ball-Smith who's worked at Franklin, The Builders Arms, Carlton Wine Room and Public Wine Shop. "We have a similar menu to a lot of the restaurants we would go to around the world, and it's a representation of [any] one of those wine bars," says Bracey. "We're not necessarily interested in trying to create wild and new flavours. [Brico] very much sticks to the classics." "Simon is willing to champion the produce, as we do with the wine," adds Begbie. "It takes confidence and skill to do that."
Cue Sydney rock oysters with a bright white pepper mignonette; crudités with taramasalata; and fresh, crunchy baguettes from Iris Bakery served with cultured butter. Further down the menu, you'll find Dream Goat Dairy goat's curd with marinated zucchini and lovage; and grilled McIvor Farm pork neck with apricot and fig, which is a Begbie favourite. "As a Western Victorian boy, I love my pork, and I love this dish," he says.
Wine is equally important at Brico, with Begbie and Bracey sharing sommelier duties. "One of the major things Josh and I have spent so much time discussing is the drinks. We care so much about the farmers, the producers who do things with such passion and effort. So we are always conscious of making sure we're doing their hard work justice," says Bracey.
The list explores the Adelaide Hills, Mount Gambier and Gippsland more locally, while also trotting over to the Loire Valley and Beaujolais in France. It also includes a wine the pair helped to produce after a harvest stint at Limus Wine's vineyard in Mount Gambier. "We were there for 10 weeks. It was kind of what we were used to from when we visited European wineries: you're up early in the morning, you're out picking all day, someone brings you sandwiches in the vineyard, and then you go home for dinner," says Begbie. "I think that definitely shaped a bit of what Brico has become."
Brico, 555 Nicholson Street, Carlton North,
  • undefined: Jordan Kretchmer