Bar Liberty is a canvas for the talents of Michael Bascetta, Casey Wall and Manu Potoi. Although the team boasts resumés with some formidable high-end entries, both here and abroad, as well as some enviable accolades, Bar Liberty was never going to be a linear progression. In fact, it is more of a disruptor, a chance to throw out the formality, the rules, and have at it with instinct and raw talent.
The suits, ties and some of the decorum have long been left on the hanger, with the tone of Bar Liberty very much more casual, focusing on warm hospitality and an offering, both food and wine, that reflects the personal preferences of the owners.
The constantly evolving wine list of about 200 bins is more or less evenly split between domestic and imported and can be broadly categorised as focusing on minimal-intervention wines, with the focus on sustainable farming practices. Feature pages delved deeper into particular subjects, whether they be explorations of the wines of the Jura, Basket Range or Beaujolais. About 15 wines are on the pour at any one time. And the liquid offer goes well beyond wine, with thoughtful digressions into all that ferments and can be distilled – there at three sakes by the glass, too.
Wall hails from North Carolina, and prior to opening Rockwell and Sons – a Southern barbecue and fried chicken experience seen through a more sophisticated lens – was cooking at Cutler & Co. Wall now focuses his energy across the group, with Falco, their sourdough bakery that replaced Rockwell and Sons in 2019, as well as Capitano, their Italian–American pizza and pasta restaurant, also in the stable.
Head chef Zackary Furst has now taken charge of the pans, having notably worked for two years under Ben Shewry at Attica, as well as with fellow Attica alumn Peter Gunn at Ides. Furst’s food knits into the wine-friendly fare that Wall had established, with pickling and fermenting getting ample airtime. Wholemeal sourdough flatbread with “butter Curd”, pickled green tomatoes and a dish of kraut and chicken jus have become mainstays.
COVID-19 conditions: Bar Liberty, like all restaurants is closed during Melbourne’s second lockdown, but a small selection of wine is available from their bakery, Falco, at 288 Smith Street Collingwood. A takeaway food offering is planned either directly from Bar Liberty when the outlook starts to brighten. For now, the team are sitting tight and getting to those jobs that a perennially busy venue keeps you away from.