Collingwood is home to a new hard-to-find rooftop bar, Runner Up, that's big on music, Italian amari and natural wine, and low on tricky drinks or fanfare.
Friends Liam Alexander, Carolo Colosimo, Kevin McDowell, Benny Rausa, Tom Shanahan and Justin Tolliday have been working on the bar at Collingwood Yards for most of this year, sourcing repurposed timber and laminex, as well as an enormous pair of speakers from Japan to pump out tunes from a DJ booth built into the bar.
The plan is to have staff playing records on quieter nights while the weekends will be all about sets from Milo Eastwood, DJ Manchild and other local DJs.
"The energy of the space is going to be reasonably upbeat. It's not a dancing bar, but we want it to feel good after so much down time," explains Alexander, who also runs music club Colour with Rauser and Colosimo.
The vibe is given an assist by a list of Italian-inspired cocktails featuring top-shelf Australian spirits, such as a Spritz Lexia featuring mandarin liqueur and an Australiano: Okar bitters and sweet vermouth topped up with soda. Wines mainly cover Italian and Australian producers from the low-touch end of winemaking, with grapes including lambrusco, nerello mascalese and fiano well represented. There's also an extensive range of amari, the bittersweet Italian liqueurs made of top-secret selections of herbs, fruits and spices.
A $9 list of tap wine (red, white and bubbles), beer and a single cocktail is designed to make the bar welcoming for all, something that's important to Alexander and his partners.
Food takes a back seat to the drinks but you can get quality anchovies, potato chips, olives and other drinking fodder.
While Runner Up boasts 270-degree views of Melbourne (something of a rarity in the north), the rooftop is backed up by an adjoining sunroom with bifold windows and cosy spots for two or three, while opposite the main bar are caramel-coloured booths for six featuring tables with laser-cut laminex patterns the team made themselves.
Original floorboards, windows and brickwork remain from the venue's former life as the caretakers' cottage at Collingwood Tafe, but these are complemented by a new timber bar, yellow drapes and wallpaper printed with clouds to remind you you're on top of the world (for now, anyway).
Stay tuned for chef pop-ups, events in the Collingwood Yards courtyard and a fresh roster of DJs each week.
Open Wed-Thurs 5pm-11pm, Fri 4pm-1am, Sat 1pm-1am, Sun 1pm-11pm
Level 2, 35 Johnston Street, Collingwood, runnerup.net.au