Three interesting new Melbourne bars


One spot is a nostalgic experience for children of the ’70s. Another turns American takeaway dishes into killer bar snacks. None follows the rules.

Emma Breheny

Three new bars around Melbourne are levelling up the drinking experience, creating hangouts crammed with quirky details and backstories that might persuade you to stick around for another round.

Wine cave Pour Diane offers time travel with every drink it pours. The North Melbourne shop is a jolt of vivid green carpet, brown couches and tiger print, which covers a circular sofa bed occupying most of the front window.

“How amazing to be able to come and drink wine on a circular sofa bed,” says co-owner Andy Buchan, who also makes wine under the Adaption label.

Punters at Pour Diane can relax on a circular tiger print bed.
Punters at Pour Diane can relax on a circular tiger print bed.Joe Armao

Kitting out the wine bar and bottle shop to evoke a 1970s house party allowed Buchan and wife Tina to create a “Peter Pan-type” experience for people their age. “It transports you back to a younger time, staying at your friends’ houses, hanging out in their parents’ kitchen or whatever,” Andy says.

Chances are the booze is of a much higher standard, though, with bottles from France’s Jura region, Chile, Catalonia in Spain and some of Buchan’s favourite Victorian wines, all leaning towards natural winemaking. With no wine list and Buchan preferring to be out in front of the bar, you can bet he’ll steer you towards something he’s passionate about.

Orange vinyl, green carpet and games such as Connect 4 await at Pour Diane.
Orange vinyl, green carpet and games such as Connect 4 await at Pour Diane.Joe Armao

Inspired by Paris’s cave a mangers (places that sell and serve wine), every retail bottle can be drunk there for $25 corkage, alongside snacks such as tinned fish and Bread Club bread.

Open Wed-Sat 5pm-late, Sun 2pm-8pm, 472 Victoria Street, North Melbourne, instagram.com/pourdiane

Nina’s in Brunswick isn’t shying away from blue drinks, pineapple in savoury dishes or desserts your gran would love, as pals Shae Van Stebbing and Hayley Williamson mine their family recipe books and younger years for inspiration at their first venue.

The blue cocktail (which happens to match the decor) gets its colour from Alize, a cognac-based liqueur that front-of-house manager and sommelier Williamson says was a popular after-work drink in the bars where she cut her teeth.

Blue drinks are matched by retro touches in the food at Nina’s.
Blue drinks are matched by retro touches in the food at Nina’s.Joey Knox

Apple crumble cake that wouldn’t feel out of place at a country cafe is a buttery update to one of Van Stebbing’s mum’s recipes. Her favourite dishes are dotted throughout the menu, breaking the cookie cutter wine bar mould.

Pork cutlet with bacon and pineapple, when in season, is a notable example. Tofu is on the menu because, well, Van Stebbing grew up eating a lot of it. Vegemite and cheese toast becomes a wine bar snack when it’s made with mozzarella and fingers of shokupan bread.

“Some dishes we’re going for a retro vibe,” says Williamson. “We’ve had a bit of fun thinking of things that would be tasty and remind you of stuff.”

Stay tuned for chicken Kyiv and possibly even a Vienetta-inspired dessert.

Open Thu-Mon noon-late, 11 Florence Street, Brunswick, ninasbaranddining.com

Goodwater bar is a mix of its owners’ passions, from whisky to American food.
Goodwater bar is a mix of its owners’ passions, from whisky to American food.Supplied

Ever tried a Champagne Old Fashioned? It’s an off-menu drink at new American-inspired bar Goodwater, but it’s not as obscure as it sounds. In fact, you’ve probably already had it in some form.

“For a long time, people have associated bourbon and Coke with low-rent drinking in Australia, but we’re saying there’s no shame in a good [one],” says co-owner Fred Siggins. Theirs is made with Maker’s Mark bourbon from Kentucky and a few dashes of orange bitters to enhance the cola.

Goodwater combines the experience of four drinks professionals and their passions, from whisky to wine, to create an American bar unlike the themed versions we often see here.

Siggins draws on his time living and cooking in the US to create menus that reflect specific regions.

Cocktails at Goodwater can be served tall, straight up or non-alcoholic.
Cocktails at Goodwater can be served tall, straight up or non-alcoholic.Supplied

“Each place [in the US] has its own food culture, even though it’s quite casual. But in a bar environment that works well,” says Siggins.

Right now, he’s focused on the West Coast, which means a French dip sandwich inspired by LA’s original but made with venison, and served with a red wine and juniper jus for dipping.

House cocktails, perhaps the tequila and peach-driven Four Hundred Rabbits, come with rare flexibility. Choose to have it straight up, over soda so it’s less boozy, or non-alcoholic. Part-owner Nathaniel White has raided his whisky collection to stock one of the best back bars for American whisky in Melbourne, perhaps Australia.

Open Wed-Sun 5pm-late, 300 High Street, Northcote, goodwater.melbourne

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Emma BrehenyEmma Breheny – Emma is Good Food’s Melbourne-based reporter and co-editor of The Age Good Food Guide 2024.

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