Belleville

Rotisserie chicken with slaw and fries.
Rotisserie chicken with slaw and fries. Photo: Wayne Taylor

Globe Alley Melbourne, Victoria 3000

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Opening hours Daily 11am-1am
Features Licensed, Bar
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)
Payments AMEX, Mastercard, Visa, eftpos
Phone 03 9663 4041

Melbourne does hybrid very well. Not just in the two-stroke cafe/bar, bar/bottleshop, hairdresser/record shop, bar/cinema sense but also with the places that effortlessly weave together multiple elements and make it look like it's the most natural thing in the world for them to be sharing the same space.

There's a kind of attractive (if slightly studied) nonchalance to the way these multi-businesses roll, like they're flattered you've noticed all the good stuff they're doing but would rather you didn't make a fuss about it. Please step forward Exhibit A, Belleville.

Owned and run by the kind folks who have already gifted the city watering holes such as Section 8 and   Ferdydurke, Belleville resists being wrestled into any particular box because it does quite a few things well.

Hybrid: Belleville bar in the CBD.
Hybrid: Belleville bar in the CBD. Photo: Wayne Taylor

It's obviously a bar (in fact, two bars, with the second, smaller one that is dedicated to cocktails in a separate room) but it opens from 11am every day and, with banks of windows overlooking Swanston Street and the Chinatown gateway that flood the place with light, there are as many good reasons to hang out here during the day, perhaps even sans booze, as there are to enjoy being surrounded by the city lights at night.

Belleville also sports a raised DJ booth, an impressive sound system and a roster of live acts and DJs (mainly on weekends) so that it also dips its toes into the nightclub/bandroom waters.

Then there is the food element of the equation which moves beyond fried-salty-snacks-ideal-for-sopping-up-alcohol territory (though not neglecting the fried salty end of the equation altogether) to some seriously delicious rotisserie chicken. They use free-range and organic birds that can be ordered by the quarter, half or whole, simply seasoned with salt and pepper or slathered in miso butter and there is a range of sauces, from mild to hot, and chicken-friendly sides like kimchi slaw, beer battered fries and an Asian-style salad featuring char-grilled watermelon, Vietnamese mint and peanuts. It's good stuff, enough to have you planning return visits just for the food.

The booze department is no slouch either with a more-than-decent two-page wine-list that mostly sticks to Australian labels (with a lean to the Victorian) but that also chucks in a few Old Worlders – 2009 Josmeyer Folastries gewurztraminer from Alsace, 2006 Chateau Senailhac Excellence de Senailhac from Bordeaux – to round it out. About 15 wines are available by the glass and the prices are reasonable, starting about $8 a glass.

There is good beer available by the bottle and a couple of taps dedicated to craft beers, perhaps a Two Birds Bantam IPA, but otherwise the draught sticks to the more prosaic likes of Carlton Draught and Melbourne Bitter.

Cocktail fans should certainly check out the small circular bar that sits, glamorously mirrored in an '80s nightclub kind of way, in the smaller room off the main cavernous one. Not only is it pleasant to perch imbibing under a hanging circle of indoor plants but the cocktails being bashed out here – both original and classic – are constructed with thought, care and skill.

There is a rather good version of the Boulevardier using local sweet vermouth from Maidenii alongside the bourbon and the Campari while the originals, like a Purple Haze (rum, violet liqueur, apple and ginger) and the Midnight Mexican (tequila, pear, thyme and lemon) are nicely balanced and not afraid of a little savoury alongside the sweet.

With its decayed-grandeur good looks, all artfully scuffed and peeling paint, mismatched furniture, trees in giant planter pots, candles burning in gaps in the brick walls, and suitably dim lighting (including from a rather impressive metal chandelier), Belleville feels both retro and of its time. Like its bar/cafe/diner/nightclub/bandroom/cocktail bar business model, it doesn't want to be tied down to any one thing.

Drink this Ruby Tuesday, a pack-a-punch mix of gin, green chartreuse, spiced raspberry syrup and mint.
Eat this Excellent free-range organic rotisserie chook.
Check this Live music and a changing roster of DJs add another layer to the already textured mix.

http://belleville-melbourne.com/