216 High St Windsor, VIC 3181
|Opening hours||Wed-Thu 5pm-1pm, Fri-Sun 3pm-1am|
|Features||Licensed, Accepts bookings|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9521 5325|
Perhaps it's a form of branding camouflage. A bar called Galah specialising in Aussie spirits and serving drinks named Outback Sheila does have a certain theme park, Ettamogah-esque ring to it. You couldn't be shamed for anticipating Slim and Shannon on the soundtrack and beer and sport on the mood board.
What you get, though, is a well-designed, sophisticated watering hole with a thoughtful drinks list, above-average snacks, excellent jazz and house-inflected tunes via DJ and efficient table service that places Galah in a thoroughly enjoyable zone, somewhere halfway between bar and club. It's good times for grown-ups.
The entrance gives the first hint that things here might not be as oi-oi-oi as the name suggests. To get to the main event upstairs you pass through a compact, street-level bottle shop that specialises in small Australian wine producers, particularly those from the minimal-intervention end of the spectrum. You can grab a bottle of Borachio Gold Tooth Chardonnay from the Adelaide Hills or a Heathcote nebbiolo called Liquid Rock 'n' Roll on your way through to drink upstairs for an added $20 corkage fee.
The urbane upstairs room, with its lofty, saw-tooth ceiling, has a great sense of space without feeling cavernous. It's deftly divided with clusters of couches, prime-position horseshoe booths along one wall and small raised tables ringed by comfortable bar stools. Velvet, timber panelling, indoor plants and exposed brick walls offer texture and warmth and, above the bar, there's an elevated stage where the DJs and occasional live acts perform.
Galah's Australian-leaning drinks list includes local craft beer on tap and there's interesting home-grown action with original cocktails.
The Outback Sheila is a take on a margarita using 666 vodka, lime and orange juices plus cucumber and mint, a salt and dried saltbush rim and a finger lime garnish. Current Affair also riffs on the margarita using Tromba tequila (made in Mexico but owned by Aussies), agave syrup, triple sec and tangy wild native currants.
Sour fans should order the smack-around-the-chops citrus blast of the Bleeding Lime Larrikin that shakes West Winds gin, lemon and lemon aspen and an egg white, strained into a coupe and garnished with blood lime.
The snack list is less nationalistic than the spirit selection. A wattleseed-rubbed kangaroo loin gets a guernsey but otherwise the food jumps about a bit, with some South American here, a little bit of Europe there, plus a few Asian influences. Mod Aussie.
The tempura cauliflower is a bonza bar snack, especially as it's teamed with an excellent big-flavoured salsa verde and smoked chilli salt. Also good are corn fritters teamed with mojo de ajo (like a garlicky, citrusy barbecue sauce) and a sweet tomato relish and the now-obligatory fried chicken wings, customised here with indigenous mountain pepper and a hot-sweet barbecue sauce.
Galah attracts a fashion-conscious but relaxed crowd, happy to be downing local natural wine, craft beer brewed mere kilometres away and spirits distilled with flavours from the Australian bush. Perhaps this is the new Aussie stereotype.
West Winds gin, Noilly Pratt vermouth, olives, $20
They'll usually direct you to go dirty – not a bad plan.