Unlike the Tiki bars and vintage dives left right and centre, the seemingly innocuous Bowerbird Bar on Bridge Rd steps into the “themed” bar space of Melbourne with very low key aplomb. “Everything here is Victorian sourced”, manager Max Ware tells me after delivering our second round of cocktails “Not only are all our drink options Victorian made, but the tables, shelving, tableware and stools are from Victorian designers, or reclaimed from a local area” Even the rhombus trivet coaster beneath my frosted silver goblet are designed by Melbourne local Lauren Steller and made of recycled aeroplane tyres, a material that would once go directly to landfill. While I see the theme and appreciate the earth friendly nature of it, it’s not until my companion Mel (a wildlife officer, usually belly deep in a creek) points out to me the cleverness of the name – A Bowerbird goes and collects things it finds beautiful that are often throwaways from modern life, to bring back and decorate its nest with. Well played, Bowerbird bar.
Second hand materials maybe, but first class drinks, ambience and service. Bowerbird bar staff are relaxed and energetic by turn, happy to blend into the rough brick and industrial decor as much as they are to join the banter. Six rotating taps allow you to sample some fine Victorian brews, and for the sophisticated set, twenty different local wines and twenty local gins form an elegant gallery behind the recycled pavement bar. Currently crafting a gin based cocktail menu, Bowerbird impresses with cocktails that are both elegant and intriguing – perfect for foodie Melbourne looking for something a little more exciting than the humble martini.
On our menu was the Apple Wood, a spin on the classic Old Fashioned including Tequila from Tromba reposado tequila, walnut and apple bitters, smoked with apple wood and topped with a citrus and maraschino cherry foam. The Top Hat, a flip on the traditional Flip with Melbourne Moonshine sour mash, tobacco bitters and topped with a local cider from 2 Brothers brewery comes served in a frozen pewter goblet, with a dusting of sumac. Both of these incredible drinks disappeared alarmingly well – but if you’re a traditionalist, be sure to enjoy a crisp Mint Julep in its own chalice, ready to warm your heart during this slow start to Spring.
After your favourite foodie stop on Bridge Road, Bowerbird bar is the ideal spot to see out the night in style and comfort. Pull up a vintage chair in front of their crackling fire, and ask the bar staff what’s good. Something tells me they’ll know exactly what you need.
What: Bowerbird Bar – A socially conscious bar with local brands
Where: 274 Bridge Road, Richmond / 03 9428 4422
When: 4pm – Midnight Tuesday – Thursda
2pm – 1am Weekends
Words by Lee Douglas