382 Little Bourke St Melbourne, VIC 3000
|Opening hours||Daily 11am-11pm|
|Phone||03 03 9600 4550|
I've been to Kirk's four times, and it's barely been open for as many days. It's the kind of place I want to bring everyone I know, leading them here without fanfare only to have jaws hit the floor. "How long has this been open?" they'll ask, and I'll shrug nonchalantly.
On the street, sea green tiles frame a slim but effective terrace, turning drinkers at round wooden tables into a prosperous window display. A lake of speckled terrazzo flooring runs inside, separated by a curved glass wall with stained glass details; at once delicate and sturdy, modern and retro.
The curves continue with an S-shaped American oak bar as sleek as a sports car on one side, a row of padded diner stools facing a golden mirror on the other.
In the middle of the room a black steel staircase drops into a cellar basement, available for functions of up to 40. It's a discreet retreat, with original bluestone walls and bottles of wine lit up like jewels in polished glass cases.
Owners Ian Curley, Josh Brisbane and Con Christopoulos are used to colonising upmarket ghettos – early venture The European mushroomed into City Wine Shop, Supper Club, Siglo Bar, and Spring Street Grocer. Now the trio has turned this touristy corner of Hardware Lane into a kind of adult contemporary Curtin House.
The vibe changes depending on the night of the week – Friday is standing room only, while on a Sunday afternoon there's just one other party drinking rosé outside.
Barman Lazlo Evenhuis created the menu of beers available by the bottle or can, or from one of nine unmarked taps. It's a who's who of local craft brews – Holgate, Cavalier, Hawkers, Edge, Hargreaves Hill – plus a few international inclusions like Fuller's London Pride or Budvar Czech lager.
I loved the Forty Acres "Bury The Hatchet" APA, a hopped-up delight from a tiny Bendigo brewer, but there's something here for every beer drinker. There are also the usual spirit suspects behind the bar and a minuscule selection of wines by the glass: a Spanish cava, a few ports.
Curley's food is reminiscent of a romantic English picnic. There's an almighty scotch egg the size of an Easter treat – generously crumbed, sage-scented sausage around a soft boiled egg – and the croque monsieur is a buttery, hangover-clearing beauty, with shavings of ham and oozes of bechamel to be slathered in good French mustard squirted on the side. A changing hot meal of the day might be bangers and mash, or fish and chips: a cut above the average counter plate.
If you want anything further, well, you can always go upstairs, or next door. "It's good that we don't have to be everything to everybody," Evenhuis says. "And just do what we do well."