CHANGING hands can be risky business. But as Meld’s Krystin Low finds out, there was every reason to celebrate the relaunch of The Collection bar in Richmond.
Nestled on Bridge Rd is a nifty little bar called The Collection. Inspired by the New Orleans bar scene, The Collection has been a local Richmond haunt and was voted the 22nd best bar in the World by World’s Best Bars in 2008.
This watering hole has just celebrated its 10th anniversary, complete with a facelift. New owners Paul Fitzsimmons and Owen Westman recently undertook the task of updating the fit out and menu. What Melbournians will be delighted to find is a cosy, relaxed interior with a backlit bar, a projector beaming old black and white movies on the wall and a courtyard out the back perfect for kicking back with friends.
Before The Collection, Owen spent time in the States honing his artistry in cocktail making while managing the well-known Bourbon & Branch and subsequently, The Rickhouse, two of San Francisco’s most famous bars. Paul has more than 10 years experience in the industry. So it was only natural that the two men, native Melbournians who have been friends for years, always intended to open a bar together in their home city.
Catching up with Owen at The Collection’s recent exclusive launch party, it’s pretty clear he’s a cocktail genius. An award-winning bartender, he most recently won the Victorian Final of the Angostura Cocktail Challenge, narrowly pipping Nathan Beasley from Black Pearl.
The Collection boasts an extensive and sophisticated drinks menu, including original concoctions of seasonal summer libations, sweet and sours, martini classics, pick-me-ups and dessert cocktails, as well as wines and spirits.
Owen also considers Melbourne one of the most food-and-drink forward places in the world, and he is passionate about using seasonal locally-grown ingredients, ensuring his cocktails use his very own housemade liquers as much as possible.
The signature cocktail is The Laphroaig Project, a combination of Green and Yellow Chartreuse, Maraschino liqueur, Laphroaig Quarter Cask, fresh lemon juice and peach bitters shaken and served on the rocks with a lemon twist. Smoke-flavoured cocktails are one of the hottest trend for those in the know in the spirits world. The Project leaves a old-world intricate smoky taste on the tongue from the single malt Laphroaig, with a zesty citrus twist. An original Owen creation, it had an absolute cult following in the San Francisco Bay area, and in London and Germany.
The Cucumber Gimlet is a refreshing house-made cucumber infusion of your choice of gin or vodka, fresh lime juice, elderflower syrup and orange bitters shaken and served up with a dash of sparkling wine (which somehow made us feel rather Oscar Wildean).
The bar also serves a new punch in a bath-tub – that’s right, a miniature bath-tub, and it’s far too charming and delicious to be gimmicky.
While it is unlikely that in any Melbourne bar the snacks would be a bowl of assorted nuts, The Collection tapas menu is top notch by any standards, serving up moreish nibbles such as white truffle popcorn, duck liver pate, cevapi sausage rolls and hush puppies that are amazingly crispy on the outside, dusted with Spanish paprika and melt-in-your mouth mash inside.
Happy Hour Libations are a steal at $10 from 5 until 7pm. The Collection is definitely the next place we’ll be suggesting to friends for Friday drinks, to try a cocktail.. or 10!
The Collection Bar
328 Bridge Road,Richmond VIC 3121
(03) 9429 8333