The Ugly Duckling

Plush young bird: the front bar.
Plush young bird: the front bar. Photo: Wayne Taylor

238 Swan St Richmond, VIC 3121

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Opening hours Daily from 3pm-1am
Features Licensed, Bar
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Phone 03 9429 1498

This plush young bird glides into the waters of Swan Street with its feathers plumed, about as ugly as Cate Blanchett. Everything about the Hecker Guthrie fit-out says money, baby.

A discreet heritage shopfront near Church Street conceals a handsome granite bar with sleek black shelves holding an enviable collection of shiny bottles. High stools and pendant lights lead to an airy conservatory out the back with a peaked glass skylight and two graceful sapling trees budding in oversized pots.

Michael Buble swings on the stereo as bearded dudes in dark denim aprons guide you through an in-the-know menu from ex-Cookie boozehound Nick Selvadurai​. Hello cocktails – they're all $18, and worth it. The luscious Antipasto martini is filthy dirty with house-infused sundried tomato, Belvedere vodka, olive brine and a storm of black pepper. "It'd make a very good salad dressing," declares the barman, and I agree. 

The Ugly Duckling's cheese plate.
The Ugly Duckling's cheese plate. Photo: Wayne Taylor

The Road to Tennessee is on the masculine end of the cocktail spectrum, with a double punch of Bulleit bourbon and Talisker 10 mixed long over crushed ice in a heavy etched glass with peach puree, black cardamom and sprigs of mint. 

Feeling more traditional? There's plenty of clever local wines by glass or bottle, a few craft beers and a swag of whisky to get stuck into. Try a kick of 16-year-old Lagavulin​: it's peaty and smoky with a dazzling honey hue.

Unsurprisingly, the bar has some deep pockets; it's a joint venture between David Abela of 3 Degrees Marketing, Andrew Ryan of Melbourne Pub Group, and Daniel Vid of St Kilda glamazons Circa and the Newmarket Hotel. 

Antipasto martini.
Antipasto martini. Photo: Wayne Taylor

There's no kitchen, so snacks are minimal but thoughtful. Carb-scorched peanuts dusted with fiery salt, a salami plate, a cheeseboard curated by Richmond Hill Cafe & Larder. Just stylish, tasteful drinking fare.

In fact everything about this bar is so tasteful you'd better not rock up in your runners. Bring your boss, your parents, or someone you're trying to impress and watch this little duck fly.

THE LOW-DOWN
Drink this: Antipasto martini, $18
Eat this: Cheese plate, $20
Say this: "This place is so Hecker Guthrie."
Know this: It's a shocker for parking. 

http://theuglyduckling.com.au