The experience begins at the nondescript front door, surrounded by peeling band posters and faded graffiti. Ring once and the heavy black wood swings back to reveal a green-lit wonderland: tulip lights hanging from the ceiling (a nod to Oscar Wilde), 19th century decanters on every table, low light and crystal glassware, a Prohibition-style courtyard and a ‘reverse bar’ with 36 bottles of French, Swiss and Australian absinthe on display. Welcome Absinthesalon, Fitzroy’s latest night cap, a herb-infused Parisian salon with a double dose of Belle Époque elegance.
Let’s get things clear up front: Absinthesalon doesn’t do the whole green-water-on-fire trick. Strictly speaking, that’s not how you’re meant to enjoy Absinthe. Owners Rebecca Lombardo and Vince Morino want to honour the spirit that French legionnaires brought back from the Algerian wars, the green fairy that became a 19th century movement. Absinthe here is treated like a precious gem, not something you suck out of a bellybutton.
First your waiter will walk you through the menu and help you make a selection. Next, your bottle will be presented, and a careful measure of ghost-green absinthe poured into the glass. Now for the fun bit: every table is fitted with a ‘fountain’ in the centre, a beautiful French decanter with four taps. You rest a sugar cube above your drink and allow the ice-cold water to drip through, onto the absinthe, dissolving the sugars and causing the herbs to separate and clarify. It’s hypnotic, fun and delicious. House Rules: there’s a three-drink maximum to encourage an appreciation of fine absinthe, not a piss-up. Although once you’ve had three of these bad boys, you’ll agree it’s good to exercise a bit of restraint. They pack a wallop.