285 Brunswick Street Fitzroy, VIC 3065
|Opening hours||Mon-Thurs, noon-3.30pm, 6-10.30pm; Fri-Sun, noon-10.30pm|
|Features||Licensed, Wheelchair access, Outdoor seating, Vegetarian friendly, Gluten-free options|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
EVERY SO OFTEN - ONCE, MAYBE twice, a year - we witness the birth of a place that has been blessed by the gods of hospitality. By virtue of concept or design, ownership or sheer X-factor, these privileged places are marked from the get-go for the sort of wild success that leaves competitors muttering jealously about theunfairness of it all.
Naked in the Sky has been thus anointed. Max Fink, who resurrected the Provincial, then gave the world Bimbo Deluxe and Lucky Coq, floated his improbable plan for a rooftop bar on a decomposing building a couple of years ago, and here it is realised in its 360-degree-view glory.
It is, frankly, a triumph, a paean to the owners' vision and to a 'burb that's easily derided as hipster central. Four storeys above Fitzroy's linear flatness, the view is breathtaking. The glass-walled balcony is jumping with girls in red lippie and cat's-eye sunglasses, and boys in pants carefully calibrated to show off the new erogenous zone (the ankle). Naked in the Sky is like a micro-version of the Eureka Skydeck, with better drinks and a sexier clientele.
Ground-floor sibling Naked for Satan took the bread-and-toothpicks option and made like a pintxos bar, but Naked in the Sky has found space in its heart, and in its generous floor plan, for more serious eating.
The spin is Basque, and the deliberate rusticity suits the tone. It's not going to blow your socks off (hypothetically speaking, of course; the hipsters aren't wearing socks these days), but it's worth checking out, a) for the real estate; b) for some easy-going food that will register on the trend-o-meter; and c) because eating in the"restaurant" - really just a section loosely corralled from the mayhem of the bar - is probably the only way you're going to get a seat post-6pm.
The restaurant, Naked Kitchen (or sukal dea, as the Basques would say), slots neatly into the New Dining paradigm - no bookings (except at lunchtime); a menu that denies the existence of entrees and mains; and share, share, share.
Down the shallow end, you've got some nice salty snacks, such as skewered prawns girdled with bacon and splodged with red capsicum salsa.
Pan frito - fried bread - is a plate of oily misshapen bread nuggets flecked with herbs and powered by garlic and anchovies. It proves a brilliant carbohydrate delivery device. I also have a lot of time for the migas, a bread stew of sorts, with soft-chewy fried bread in competition with tomato and peppers and wilted spinach to see which can best soak up the garlicky oil base.
Crumbed ox tongue literally beefs up a salad but seems out of place amid the soft leaves with heirloom beets and a neutered blizzard of pickled garlic. Battered pimentos (green peppers) are filled with a crab mixture that half the table mistook for tuna after being cooked with a bisque-like fish stock. Never a good sign.
But look out for a special of fried zucchini flowers, their creamy stuffing spiked with mojama (salty air-dried tuna), and a savoury green swipe of asparagus and shallot gazpacho.
And octopus will ping on the radar of the Spanish-cognisant audience: boldly charred on the parrilla with smooth potato puree and a dusting of paprika. Like the best ofthe food at Naked in the Sky, it offers contentment rather than excitement.
The pick of the desserts is the torrija, brioche with a crackable caramelised crust offset by the sour tang of sheep's-milk yoghurt. I'd skip the trifle, which is laced with enough patxaran - a Basque liqueur - to stun an elephant.
It's destination drinking rather than destination dining, the party tone set by infused vodka in copper vats suspended above the bar. Wine? The list tilts towards Spain, with an eye to the wallets of the young crowd.
Waiters wear the look of quiet terror common to frontline workers caught up in an instant success story. They're well meaning, but professionalism passes for asking, "How is everything?" ad nauseam and efficiency means clearing plates before everyone has finished.
But, like, whatevs. Expecting the finer points of etiquette here would be a classic case of Missing the Point. Put Naked in the Sky on your summer to-do list, grab a drink and grab some food to eat with it. Bask in the Basque.
The best bit The view
The worst bit Getting a table
Go-to dish Fried zucchini flowers with mojama