For absinthe lovers residing in Melbourne, Bar Ampere has long been regarded as a go to – but is this hole in the wall establishment as French as it presents
Unassuming from the outside and yet full of secret treasures for those willing to go looking, such as hard to find art galleries, bars, and nightclubs, the city of Melbourne has long been regarded as Australia’s capital of culture. Filled with laneways, local artists, die hard AFL fans and the nation’s best coffee, locals and tourists alike have long put up with it’s temperamental weather in favour of the lifestyle that this cosmopolitan city has to offer.
Maybe it’s the fashion, or maybe it’s the food, but Melbourne is also regarded as the most ‘European’ of the Australian capital cities. In terms of culture, lifestyle, vibe and multiculturalism, Melbourne has often been compared to Berlin. Much like the German capital city, the beating heart of Melbourne is not necessarily within the central business district, but instead found in its surrounding suburbs, with each offering its own distinct personality.
That’s not to say that Melbournians consciously avoid the CBD. Shoppers regularly frequent the ornate 19th-century arcades and sprawling Queen Victoria Market, which is known for its gourmet food halls and it’s bustling produce stands. Federation Square offers Australian art at the Ian Potter Centre, and art-house films and movies at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image. As much a culture and dining hub as it is a business district, the CBD has more than its fair share of clubs, bars and chic eateries on its street art-plastered laneways.
For any CBD worker, 5:00pm on a Friday usually signals some form of knock off drink to welcome the arrival of the weekend. While there’s several fan favourites, it’s not uncommon for many to descend on Bar Ampere into the wee hours for a taste of Paris.
INTRODUCING MELBOURNE’S SIGNATURE ABSINTHE BAR
Hidden away on Russell Place in Melbourne’s city centre, Bar Ampere takes its cues from its underground location as much as it does from traditional Parisian café culture. With it’s high white arches and al fresco outdoor area, the bar was purposefully designed to resemble a typical hole in the wall European cafe. While inside the venue is regarded as a tribute to the machinery of the mid 19th century, Bar Ampere still manages to pay homage to the energy of the futurist movement.
Naturally, the drinks menu includes a strong line-up of European aperitifs and digestives, with a heavy presence of vermouth, amaro and of course, the absinthe that Bar Ampere is well known for. The wine list is a concise detail of good and great French varietals, with very reasonable prices by the glass on offer.
Outside of lockdowns, Bar Ampere does a roaring trade for those looking to escape to a French themed world where the old meets the new. Operating from 3:00pm to 3:00am every day except Sundays, visitors can dive into one of the widely regarded cheese platters, sample modern Australian cuisine, and of course, work their way through the bar’s extensive absinthe menu. With the kitchen open until the wee hours, it’s become known as a venue that either marks the start of a night out, or a glorious end to one.
Architects and interior design consultants Donna Brzezinski and Greg Buhagiar of BG Architecture worked extensively with venue owner Vernon Chalker and Michael Anderson of Skidmark Designs to create the futuristic yet Parisian design of Bar Ampere. With its concrete walls adorned with original Melbourne style graffiti still intact, Bar Ampere has had no expense spared to ensure that it remains as one of Melbourne’s best nightlife venues for those looking for a taste of Paris.
While nobody can say whether you’ll witness Kylie Minogue appear as the green fairy after a few cocktails consumed at Bar Ampere, there’s no denying that the controversy and mystique are all a part of absinthe’s appeal. Needless to say, the global curiosity doesn’t look to be diminishing anytime soon – even for the ultra cultured residents of Melbourne.