When heritage buildings make the news in Melbourne, it’s usually because they’re being torn down to make way for high-rise apartments, or disappearing in mysterious yet convenient fires...to make way for high-rise apartments.
Which is why it’s refreshing to walk through the doors at Fargo & Co, Cremorne’s newest bank-themed cocktail fortress.
Back in 1907, this place was home to the State Bank Of Victoria, and Fargo’s developers have kept the building’s bones in-tact. Exposed brick highlights, crystal chandeliers, the ripple of stained glass overlooking Swan St. Bank vaults and ‘teller’ bars. The Monopoly vibes are strong here, right down to the bank notes on every table (plastic, unfortunately), and the money-themed cocktail list.
Speaking of cocktails, let’s dive right in, shall we? Fargo has a killer bar menu—which we’ll get to in a sec—but really, if you’re coming here and ordering a pint, you’re doing it wrong. Start with a signature mixer like the High Interest: Junmai Gino sake, Mozart white choc, salted caramel and Luxardo maraschino. It’s sweet, but not tooth-achingly so. James Bond types will appreciate The Loomis Fargo (a fireball mix of Macallen, Laphroaig, lemon, ginger liquor, honey and smoke) or Money, Money, Money (zingy refreshment, courtesy of Tanqueray, St Germain, basil, mint, cucumber, bitters and pepper)—best enjoyed on Fargo’s open-air terrace, with a pink sunset over the Richmond rooftops.
There’s an encyclopedic range of classic cocktails, as you’d expect, from Southsides and Old Fashioned to Negronis, Mojitos and Amaretto Sours, plus (!!) Espresso Martinis and Passionfruit Bellinis on tap. Yep, really.
The wine cellar is comprehensive, without being overwhelming. Mostly a mix of VIC and SA vineyards, with a few well-travelled bottles from Marlborough, Burgundy and Veneto. The real fun starts with the dedicated shot menu (because wine is fine, but liquor is quicker). We recommend either the Penny Farthing (gin & cucumber) or the Dollar Bill (pear vodka & strawberry liqueur). They go down dangerously smooth.
Fargo’s food is built around alco-soaking bar snacks, plus a couple of larger plates for the table. The sort of bites you can eat with one hand while you regale your work team with witty and urban anecdotes (or that time you called Kyle Sandilands a ‘nob’ at the races, either way). Chef Dylan Evans (ex State of Grace) is running the pass, and he's built a savvy little menu to complement space.
A plate of crunchy fries with aioli never goes astray, and make sure you order up a serve of the cod fritters on herb cream, covered in mega-crisp angel hair chips. Seriously addictive stuff. The Crispy cornflake chicken with fried egg and spicy mayo is another good stomach-liner, but if you’re looking for something a bit more substantial, try the grandmother ham with truffled potato salad and warm sourdough. It’s had to convey just how delicious this thing is. We were fighting an urge to simply order multiple plates of ham. Not a problem one usually encounters in an up-market cocktail parlour.
The venue itself is stunning. Probably one of the most beautiful spaces we’ve seen in a long time. Downstairs you’ve got your teller bar, with custom tile-work, exposed brick, chandeliers and old-world glam. Climb the staircase and you’ll see the al fresco roof terrace (with its hand painted smoking-gun mural), plus a back bar and private function room: an 80-head cocktail space with windows overlooking Swan St and a big ol’ plasma screen in the corner. (Get booking now—this thing will be packed out for months.)
When they laid the first brick of the State Bank back in 1907, Cremorne and Richmond were nascent suburbs, booming on the edges of an outpost city. Those workers probably couldn’t envision the days of espresso martinis on tap, but we like to think they would have approved all the same. Fargo is all about honouring the past, and celebrating the future (preferably, with booze). We’ll drink to that.
Want to find out more about Fargo & Co? Step right this way.
Image credit: Griffin Simm