Part of the fun of my extended stay in Melbourne has been the opportunity to act on various recommendations from people I’ve met along the way. The most consistently tipped place was Bar Liberty in Fitzroy so I was very pleased to be able to visit on a lively Thursday evening.
Liberty is at its heart a wine bar but their food offering has become more prominent over time. I’d had a bit of background on the place from a chat with one of their front of house team over a beer in Black Pearl on one of my first nights in the city. It was good to renew acquaintances.
I’d actually been back in the Pearl directly before to wish them congratulations on maintaining their place in the World’s 50 Best Bars, this year at number 30.
Upon arrival at Liberty, I took up station at the bar and contemplated the menus over a glass of pet nat. The food looked highly enticing so the prospect of a $60 chef’s choice option was too good miss.
The wine list was extremely expansive, with a strong emphasis on local producers. It was laced with humour which is consistently the most difficult thing to get right on a menu, so big congrats to the folks that put it together. That good humour set the tone for an evening of effortlessly enjoyable eating and drinking.
First up was a humble potato crisp topped with an elegant mussel mousse. This was a lovely bite with which to start.
We then moved on to lightly cured scallops topped with shiitake mushrooms, thin batons of kohlrabi and grated hazlenut. This was a delicate and beautifully balanced dish with the scallops treated very deftly.
Next came raw beef and Dijon mustard with incredible onion crackers. I’ve seen a few different tartare riffs in Australia. This was comfortably the best I’ve had so far.
A pasta course followed with a precision execution of the simple classic cacio e pepe. The buccatini was spot-on and the flavours exceptional. It was as good as any pasta dish I’ve eaten in Roma.
The main course was excellent local flank steak served with burnt onions, romesco and chimmichurri. This was accompanied by outstanding roast potatoes topped with seaweed.
A dessert of caramelized banana ice cream is not something I would have ordered in a million years, but it was every bit as fantastic as everything else I’d ordered.
Throughout, I was taken on a tour of some quirky, innovative and delicious local wines with a syrah from Dirty Black Denim so good I bought a bottle to take home with me.
We concluded things with a little concoction called gin face which was a typically fun way to conclude a joyous meal.
Bar Liberty should be on everyone’s list for a visit. It’s always a good sign for me when I’m left thinking about the people I’d like to bring with me on a return visit. In this case, the list was practically endless as this was one of my favourite dining experiences on the trip so far.
Blythe scores Bar Liberty
5/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
5/5 for service
4.5/5 for setting
giving an overall 18.5/20
I ate: mussel dip on potato chip with lovage and pickled onion; cured scallops with kohlrabi, shiitake and hazelnut; raw beef with onion crackers; cacio e pepe; flank steak, roasted potatoes; caramelized banana ice cream
I drank: pet nat, Kumpf & Mayer sylvaner, Bendigo cab franc white, Dirty Black Denim syrah, Gentle Folks Blossoms, Pennyweight, gin face
I wore: crushed linen
Total bill: $160.25 (including some discount and a bottle of the Dirty Black Denim for home)
Address: 234 Johnston Street, Fitzroy VIC 3065