Fitzroy St may be the answer to the question ‘Where’s the nearest kebab?’, but it’s never really exploded onto the Melbourne foodie scene. The good news is, that might be about to change...Introducing St Luja, a smoke-infused restaurant, cocktail and whisky bar that’s riding Fitzroy St’s upmarket wave.
For starters, this place LOOKS like a whisky bar should: dark and moody from the street, a low-lit brooder with stained glass and a bit of attitude. There’s a smidge of Northside grunge there, but really this thing is pure St Kilda. And its got the drinks list to match.
Owners Luke Jovanovski & James Murphy have put together a cocktail list with some serious drama, thanks in no small part to head bartender Jesse Cummins (Fall From Grace). Expect twists on a few classics, like the Lemon Drop (Ketel One Citroen, Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao and lemon juice) or the Charlie Chaplin (Cartron Apricot Brandy, Hayman’s Sloe Gin and lime juice). Personally, we’re coming back for the Pink Panther, a tongue-seducing mix of Four Pillars Spiced Gin, D.O.M Benedictine, lemon juice, pink peppercorn and bitters. If you hadn’t guessed already, these aren’t your frothy Spring-Break-style cocktails. This is a high-end booze-fest with a puff of pink and the sizzle of a naked flame.
The kitchen is being run by Allison Hartmire (formerly of State of Grace and Mr Mason), and it’s going to feature monthly degustations, paired with cocktails from behind the bar. Think seared scallops with smoked corn puree and toasted brioche crumble, or smoked Flinders Island lamb pappardelle, topped with braised shallots, carrot shards, confit garlic puree and a red wine sauce. It’s a seductive little menu, and it all goes down pretty smooth with a glass of 10-year-old Laphroaig on the rocks.
Okay Fitzroy St, you have our attention.
Image credit: Griffin Simm