St Kilda bar owner Reg Ridealgh wants you to pull up a perch and “join our little circle of love and dysfunction!”* And his new St Kilda venue named—you guessed it—Love&Dysfunction, sounds like just the kind of place we’d want to spend some time, melding a cosy, prohibition-style front bar and lounge with a leafy little beer garden and relaxed vibes.
With a high-end cocktail offering encompassing both the classics and modern re-imaginings, and a predominantly European menu designed for sharing, it’s all class, no fuss at this approachable Grey Street bar.
Wander into the low-lit front bar and you’ll find a speakeasy vibe with electro swing tunes—a refreshing respite from the St Kilda hustle and bustle. With more than a nod to the 20s and 30s, Love&Dysfunction’s wooden bar top, ornate led-lit windows, cut-glass decanters, antique lamps, gold-framed mirrors and signature grandmother clock set the mood for some top-notch sipping.
Might we suggest the Dysfunction Gimlet: Hendrick's Gin shaken with fresh lime, homemade lime cordial, and elderflower cordial served in an Absinthe-rinsed glass and finished with a cucumber rubbed rim. Or perhaps you have a hankering for a classic Sazerac, fine wine or craft beer.
“We are very much going for the premium end of the market, with top-shelf spirits, classic cocktails, homemade syrups, shrubs, bitters etcetera, fine wines, good food, table service, customer service, the works. I’m trying to create a venue that appeals to the mature-minded consumer, but not at the loss of a friendly, fun environment,” says Reg.
Move deeper into Love&Dysfunction and you’ll find an intimate lounge, replete with a mix of modern ottomans, classic Chesterfields, and Art Deco murals.
Then there’s the courtyard.
“The secluded beer garden is a gem for me. Off the street, relaxed, big enough to create a good Sunday session vibe, but not so big it becomes a crazy mess,” says Reg. “There are not too many beer gardens in St Kilda, which surprises me.”
As you might expect, the venue was a true labour of love for London-born Reg, who spent many hours scouring antique shops and upmarket op shops for the vintage glassware and other key pieces required to pay homage to an earlier era.
“The lighting and wall colours were also very carefully chosen as I wanted a real cosy, intimate feel to the venue,” he adds.
And for the food?
“We are all about sharing, but not necessarily tapas— it’s a bit broader than that. I have created a bar that is all about the social aspect and I wanted good food that reflects that. Food that can be consumed over good conversation and not hinder.”
The St Kilda bar is serving dishes heavily European in influence—think pates, terrines, charcuterie, rillettes and cheese boards, sardines, and parmesan-crumbed artichokes.
“We also outsource some of our dishes. I feel very strongly that small businesses should try to support each other, so several items are made by close friend Charmain Dadley who has her own canapé catering company, and our chutneys and relishes are from long-time friend Paul Jewson of Fitzrovia fame,” Reg adds.
As the weather warms up, Sunday sessions will be in full swing, with BBQ smokers and food trucks taking residency beside the beer garden.
"We are all about putting the easy in speakeasy,” promises Reg.
*Quote from Jack in Will & Grace (aka the best sitcom ever).
Image credit: Sabine Legrand for The Urban List