Gresham Street is the latest West End laneway set for transformation, with plans for two new small venues – one a French aperitif bar and the other a speakeasy featuring walls lined with vintage books.
Renovations are in progress while the Small Venue Licence applications are pending, and the owners of both La Buvette and The Bibliotheca Bar and Book Exchange are confident they will get licensing approval.
Bibliotheca Bar and Book Exchange owner Roman Tazhydnov plans to open by the end of November on the site of a former clothes shop in Gresham Street, off Hindley.
“Once you have the approval, they [The Office of the Liquor and Gambling Commissioner] expect you to be open straight away,” he said.
La Buvette owner Dominque Lentz said he won’t be ready to open until February 2015, as the site for his French-style wine bar requires more extensive renovation. The heritage bluestone and brick building was formerly called Seppelt Chambers and used as the offices of the South Australian wine producer Seppelt.
“I want to bring out the exposed bluestone and old jarrah beams,” Lentz said.
“While renovating, we found an old Seppelt’s Tawny bottle hidden in a gap in the ceiling of the old safe room. It had a message inside that was a signed 1940s drink recipe using gin and vermouth, with the measurements given in ounces. We haven’t decided what to do with it yet.”
Lentz moved to Australia from Alsace in France nine years ago, meeting his Adelaide wife in Sydney.
“Two years ago I had the idea of opening a French aperitif bar in Adelaide to bring the culture of what we do in France to Australia; it’s something that hasn’t been done here yet.
“In France we always combine drinks with food. An aperitif is the pre-drink before you have dinner or lunch. An aperitif can be as quick as one glass or it can lean to more. Sometimes dinner can be skipped altogether.
“The main focus is going to be an eclectic mix of French and South Australian produce and organic, biodynamic and natural wines. Natural wines have only been known in Australia for a few years, but in France people have been drinking them for decades.
“The food will be classic cheese and charcuterie platters, escargot, foie gras and a few specialities from my region in Alsace.
“It’s what is being done in the wine bars in Paris, but there will be no clichés. Don’t expect anyone to be playing the accordion. The look and feel will be contemporary.”
Tazhydnov said Bibliotheca Bar and Book Exchange would be a different kind of venue. For a start, it will be licensed for only up to 68 patrons – just under half the capacity of La Buvette.
“The idea of Bibliotheca is to be a classic bar like a speakeasy, with a look and feel like the library of an English gentleman’s manor,” he explained. “The walls will be lined with vintage books.”
Tazhydnov migrated to Australia from Moscow with his wife two years ago. A qualified construction engineer, he was sponsored by the state. “But when I got here, I couldn’t find a job, which forced me to open this place.”
He has worked in many bars, both in Adelaide and in Moscow.
“Moscow never sleeps. It is a 24/7 city – I want to present some of the features of European bar culture that will be appreciated here.
“Spirits will be our specialty, and very classic cocktails. The food will be finger foods and snacks, but it’s got to be good looking and very tasty.
“People will be equally at home here reading a book as they will be for after-work and late night drinks.”
Both Tazhydnov and Lentz believe their timing is good for breaking into Adelaide’s small bar scene.
“The Hindley Street precinct is changing,” said Tazhydnov. “It’s becoming more easy-going and starting to attract more people.”
Lentz agrees: “Things are moving more in the CBD; it is less rigid now. What is happening in Peel Street made me realise that Adelaide was ready for change in the bar scene. It’s this innovation that gave me the confidence to start La Buvette.
“But Gresham Street is going to have more of a European feel to it than Peel Street.”
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