Inspired by New York-influenced French bar-brasseries like Schiller's and Balthazar, Melbourne's latest late-night legend, Bar Margaux, is opening July 1, adding dinner until dawn and three-sip martinis.
The 100-seater from the Everleigh cocktail bar's Michael and Zara Madrusan fills the basement of Italian restaurant Pomodoro Sardo on Lonsdale Street, a two-minute walk from the couple's rock dive, Heartbreaker.
Don't be fooled by the red leather banquettes, tables and full dinner menu: Bar Margaux is "more of a bar with great food," says Michael. "We're bar people – that's what we do."
It's a vintage look. Beyond the banquettes is a huge zinc-topped bar framed by Georgian wire glass, walls of off-white subway tiles and floors chequered in black and white.
A very late-night licence means food is available until 3am Sunday to Thursday and 5am on weekends. Until midnight, one-time Circa chef Daniel Southern's full menu includes French bistro classics like a hefty salad lyonnaise, duck frites or roast Bannockburn chicken.
The tighter supper menu still offers serious plates like bavette steak and fries, Portarlington mussels in white wine and cream, garlic escargot or the MGX burger with cheese and bacon until close. There are also "golden hour combos" – oysters and champagne; burgers and burgundy, and more – available for $29 between 4pm and 6pm and again from midnight until close each night.
Cocktails will be recognisable classics, made with the precision Madrusan is known to demand of his staff. Expect black velvets (Guinness and champagne), negronis, tom collins' with a couple of sidesteps like cognac frappes, plus "snack size" martinis and manhattans. The extensive list of French champagnes and a global wine list has been curated by the group's manager, Marty McCaig (Southpress).
Bar Margaux is open Sun-Thu 4pm-3am; Fri & Sat 4pm-5am in the basement at 111 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, barmargaux.com.au