295 Lygon St Brunswick East, VIC 305703 9388 8578
|Opening hours||Mon & Wed-Fri 4pm-late; Sat-Sun 2pm-1am|
IF YOU were plotting the family tree of Melbourne’s small-bar culture, you’d surely find many of its branches snaking back to the city’s Meyers Place bar. Not just one of the first of a phenomenon, this bar (designed and owned by architect firm Six Degrees) also sparked a fetish for recycled materials that continues unabated nearly 20 years later. But as places such as Brunswick East’s Mr Wilkinson prove, the local bar scene is more about riffing on than slavishly copying a theme.
In right-on East Brunswick, displaying clean, green, recycled credentials is always a plus; but the nice thing about Mr Wilkinson is that being a comfortable and hospitable local bar is at the front and centre of its vision.
Yes, there’s recycled timber involved — in the bar, some tables, wood panelling and so on. Black metal factory windows and a pitched roof are also a reminder of its industrial past. But none of this is marketed obviously, so it’s a bonus pleasure that the low-key, dimly (carbon-consciously) lit, stylishness of the space has done its small bit for the aching planet. Add friendly, attentive service and you’ll generally be pretty pleased with yourself for landing here.
There are various seating options in which to enjoy the bar’s compact, nicely chosen list of drinks and snacks. Grey upholstered bench seating is popular, as is the small back courtyard, but there’s also good fun to be had in the gloomy nether regions or at the communal table (especially in winter as it lies in the direct path of the most effective heater).
There’s a decent list of wines, most available by the glass (2009 Crittenden Estate Los Hermanos Tempranillo, $8.50/$36), a list of increasingly fashionable cider and a lengthy list of beer that includes long necks of Chinese thirst quencher Tsingtao ($12).
A blackboard displays an ever-changing drink of the week, such as the Bay of Piggies, a cocktail that mixes Havana rum, Cointreau, lime, grapefruit and ginger beer ($9.50).
With olives, pate and toasted sandwiches to eat, changing local art on the wall, music to keep the toes tapping and, of course, the recycled materials, Mr Wilkinson could certainly be read as a righteous kind of place. But mostly, it’s a great place to have a drink, a member of a species that taps into an honourable lineage.