When they describe Brunswick Street, the 2 km strip that runs north-south from the edge of Melbourne city, as ‘eclectic’, that’s usually a word of warning to anyone old enough to remember The Beatles.
And while the street clearly does cater to a twenty-something audience with its mix of styles (is it post-grunge, pre-punk or merely post-pubescent?), arty boutiques, cool bars and eateries (memorable and equally forgettable), there is emerging a more sophisticated wining and dining scene.
Such is new kid on the block, Kommune Canteen at number 370. The name, complete with five pointed star above the ‘e’ is a tip of the hat by co-owner Jane Besgrove, to her many years living in Shanghai. But whereas this street may have once harboured socialist leanings as a working class suburb, the only reds in this Kommune are bottled – like the lovely sweet Sangiovese from Pizzini’s King Valley vineyards.
Officially launched this week, this small wine bar is also an ideal function venue for the forty or fifty- somethings who want to enjoy a quiet drink while all the sweet young things clamour for a $4 pizza at Bimbo right next door. It is also small enough that you can book it out for an exclusive evening, catered by Paul Le Noury (of Yum Catering and Fish Dish, the highly regarded CBD café bar restaurant). Certainly the opening food and wine offerings were a cut above typical local fare – a beacon in a street offering almost 100 choices.
Jane Besgrove with partner, John Koukos, want to lift the standard in Brunswick Street by replacing the ‘vin ordinaire’ (tres ordinaire, some might say) with an appealing range of mostly local varietals, “for not much more than a house wine”. If it looks busy inside, it is, but there’s always the candlelit courtyard out back.
Kommune is a cosy retreat for grown-ups with its interesting range of wines, beers, tasty bar snacks by Paul Le Noury, and memorable décor: bowler hats, upside down umbrellas, a scrapbook of images from the street and some comfy lounge chairs – there’s homage to the local eclectic, some Magritte surrealism thrown in, and a splash of Manhattan for good measure. Friends will be curious to hear your latest “find” is a Kommune.
– Graeme Kemlo