19 Grey Street, St Kilda, 03 8590 6431, miserygutsbar.com.
Open Mon-Wed 2-11pm, Thu 2pm-midnight, Fri-Sat 2pm-1am, Sun 2pm-midnight
There's an air of mischief and a glint of macabre at this cracking new bar on notorious Grey Street. Take the business card, for example: on one side is a grim drawing of three skeletons drinking liquor looking, well, miserable. On the other side, an email address: email@example.com. Not that anyone would have any.
The website is a knowing ode to actor Bill Murray, but don't confuse this for another half-baked celebrity-themed joint – everything here is impeccably curated. The heritage building sits at the front of stalwart cafe Miss Jackson, and used to be a real estate agency. Given the newfound polish, it's fitting to learn that owner Jules Pleadin grew up around pubs in Fitzroy and the CBD, the daughter of veteran publican Ivo Pleadin. She's worked in the family business for years in between stints in fashion in New York and London, and this is her first solo venture.
It's a great space – a grand single room with soaring ceiling over an expanse of beautifully polished wooden floors, leading to a sturdy carved bar stocked with all the right craft booze. The eight cocktails are all classics, including a sour, a sazerac and a light, bright French 75 made with Prairie Organic Gin. A brief but intriguing list of wines is young and fun and hits all the right flavour buttons, the beers on tap exclusively Australian. Food is also to the point: a seasonal tasting board with three funky Euro cheeses, some hand-sliced Italian prosciutto, fresh hunks of white bread, and cornichons. There's also beer nuts, soy crisps and olives.
Above the bar, long polished mirrors reflect the room at tasteful angles: a row of circular Parisian tables line one wall, tall double windows flooding natural light in from the street. There's a grab bag of amusing curios scattered around, like a pair of old cinema chairs painted with the slogan "Misery loves company", an upright piano topped with piles of home-recorded VHS tapes, an old telly in a wooden cabinet, ceramic cats and plastic birds and a spinning globe.
Pinned to the roof, an ominous old police banner reads "We Use Tear Smoke", and over on the wall, the lyrics to a gravelly Gil Scott-Heron song are spelled out in white plastic letters. She said I had an ego on me, the size of Texas. Well, I'm new here and I forget, does that mean big or small?
The question is why somewhere so un-miserable would be called Misery Guts. It's not named after the Morris Gleitzman YA book of the same name, Pleadin says. It's her Dad's nickname for her and her for him. "We're a bit gloomy," she deadpans. Gloomy has never looked brighter. Go.
Drink this French 75, $19
Eat this Tasting board, $15
Know this Get $7 dollar pints from 4-7pm
Say this "This bar could save St Kilda."