The couple behind Singapore's experimental, World's 50 Best-ranked cocktail speakeasy, Operation Dagger, have opened Byrdi – an all-day bar slinging snacks and creative cocktails at Melbourne Central's ELLA precinct.
Seasonality is more than just a buzzword here. After five years in Singapore, where there's "zero agriculture and it's hard to make something with true provenance", Luke Whearty, his chef wife Aki Nishikura and manager Nathan Beasley (ex-Black Pearl) are dead set on making sure that every drink and dish they create speaks of a place or time.
Whearty's cocktail list will change completely every three months, at a minimum, with some drinks on for less. The In Bloome cocktail, made from foraged jasmine blossoms, lilly pilly, afourer mandarin, pear blossom and lavender, will disappear from the menu when the jasmine blossoms do – in just a few weeks.
It's hyper-local, too, with Gippsland's Butterfly Factory milk popping up in the Milk & Honey cocktail (as well as Nishikura's flatbreads) alongside fermented honey and fig leaf. Whearty never lists the type of spirit used in any of the cocktails – he believes knowing it causes unconscious bias.
Nishikura's snack menu reflects her Japanese heritage. Aside from the flatbreads, cooked on the hibachi grill and served with fermented chilli, there are grilled prawns with garlic butter and finger lime, tempura salt and vinegar green beans, and a smashed pavlova for dessert made using smoked eggs.
From 10am to noon there'll be a short breakfast menu offering dishes like housemade sourdough crumpets or an omelette with seasonal vegetables and coffee.
As well as the 40-seat bar, which features an island bench made from Australian blackwood, coir (coconut husk) flooring and curved banquettes, there's a smaller, separate space which will be used for cocktail refinement and experimentation, prep and can be booked for private events.
"I can't remember the last time I was this excited about what I'm doing," Whearty says.
Byrdi is open daily from 10am-1am at ELLA, corner Elizabeth and La Trobe streets, Melbourne, byrdi.com.au