Amarillo review

Mussels with cured pork sausage and tomato (left).
Mussels with cured pork sausage and tomato (left). Photo: Josh Robenstone

149 Brunswick St Fitzroy, VIC 3065

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Opening hours Wed-Sun 10am-11pm
Features Licensed, Breakfast-brunch, Family friendly, Bar, Gluten-free options, Outdoor seating, Vegetarian friendly
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Payments eftpos, AMEX, Cash, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 0435 372 318

Amarillo means "yellow" in Spanish and it gels perfectly with the warm sunshiny feel of this new all-day cafe and bar. I've been here for morning coffee, when motes float in still air and you can hear the sound of a crisp newspaper page being turned. I've been here for brunch when the room gleams in pale winter daylight streaming from high windows. I've been here in the evening when the glow is ruddier, rounder, more of a surge than a glimmer. And my verdict? In all light and dark night, Amarillo is lovely.

The room is spacious yet cosy, with a toffee-coloured banquette, timber floorboards, a long blue terrazzo bar and swivel chairs at a generous window bench. Venetian blinds offer a little privacy while peeping out at Brunswick Street and I can equally imagine people coming here to write poetry, turn a second date into a grand romance or save the world with serious gossip.

Best of all, Amarillo feels open and easy, recalling neighbourhood bars in Europe, there for the young or old, the dressy or casual, the solo or small group, confident in the role of being a local lounge room, here all day as retreat or destination.

Warm and cosy: Amarillo by night.
Warm and cosy: Amarillo by night. Photo: Josh Robenstone

The food is uncomplicated and fuss-free, leaning further towards Spain the later it gets. Chef Shaun Clancy (ex-Il Bacaro) is recasting the challenges of a small kitchen into a focus on quality produce, wrangled as little as possible. It's clever stuff and quite different from standard cafe and bar fodder.

In the morning, it might be as simple as boiled eggs with brioche soldiers, or sourdough toast piled with sauteed mushrooms, salsa verde and oozy stracciatella cheese.

If you want eggs every which way this isn't your Fitzroy brunch spot but if you want good coffee, a nice bite and some great tunes on vinyl, you'll love it.

The mixed plate of cold cuts.
The mixed plate of cold cuts. Photo: Josh Robenstone

As the sun sinks, lovingly assembled boards of charcuterie, cheese and pickles partner with carefully chosen wine and classic cocktails.

Hot plates may include mussels with cured pork sausage and tomato, or ricotta gnocchi furled and ridged to catch a garlicky lovage sauce that's studded with capers, scattered with lemon zest, mixed with peas and showered with grated salted ricotta. It's vibrant yet comforting.

Amarillo's owners – Donough Benson, Daniel Rosette and Adam Sime – all have long histories in Melbourne hospitality. Sime, who owns Longplay in Fitzroy North, is also a painter who had a studio on Brunswick Street in the 1980s.

The gnocchi.
The gnocchi. Photo: Josh Robenstone

There have been a zillion transformations on the strip since that time but Amarillo has instantly found its place and brought its own change: it's mature, beautiful and promising, amply comfortable and welcoming but sparse enough to let you create your own stories and make it your own.

Rating: Three and a half stars (out of five)