Barman makes a flaming rum drink at Eau de Vie in Melbourne March 2015.

Eau de Vie

“Good evening, I am Patrick” the em-bearded man in suspenders proffered his hand to me with a formal air. I took it suspiciously, unmoved by his ceremony.

“Do you have a reservation?”.

“Yes, you’re rather hard to find you know”.

Freddy dug me discretely in the ribs. You see we’d spent precious minutes hunting for this establishment at 1 Malthouse Lane in Melbourne. Since it’s modeled after a speakeasy in the years of prohibition, there’s no signage on the door to indicate it’s even a door, let alone the place you are looking for. I had to impose on a rather flustered-looking French waiter at the nearby French Brasserie. The approach lent a certain pretentiousness to the place that set my teeth on edge at the start.

Pâté with cherry preserve - bar food at Eau de Vie.
Pâté with cherry preserve – bar food at Eau de Vie.

“I did warn you, it’s going to be a little… hipster” Freddy chided quietly.

Melbourne has a rather strong hipster influence. Those kinds of people who confuse obscurity with quality or old fashioned with classy. I have to admit to feeling some bias as we followed Patrick to our little seat at the bar.

It didn’t take this exquisite bar long to win me over.

The Aviator (left) and Yuzu mule (right) at Eau de Vie.
The Aviator (left) and Yuzu mule (right) at Eau de Vie.

The team here at Eau de Vie are as committed to their cocktails as they are to their aesthetics. The menu is impressive and their collection of spirits would turn any barman green with envy. I especially enjoyed their performance pieces.

I remember spending one drunken evening carefully teaching a barman in Queenstown how to make an espresso martini myself, his brow furrowed with a mixture of confusion and disbelief.  Here at Eau de Vie, a simple Espresso Martini is not nearly fancy enough. It’s served with a dollop of cream on top, solidified into ice cream through the use of liquid nitrogen before your very eyes.

This is how drinking should be. Or perhaps how all experiences should be. A wonder, a pure delight.

Without a doubt, the most impressive drink of the evening has to be the Ron Zacapa Blazer: a flamed rum affair infused with walnut and banana that will leave you smiling wistfully all evening as you slowly sip the warm liquid down. It also makes for a spectacular show, with the skilled barmen performing a rather dangerous looking stunt with aplomb.

At the conclusion of the evening, I had to get up and shake the hand of the barman who made my blazer (seen walking back and forth in the video above, wearing a white shirt). It’s one of the more memorable experiences you can have at a bar. Stylish, exquisitely flavoured and presented drinks and food which shines through so strongly that it’s no longer pretentious.

No pretense about it in fact, these guys know what they’re on about.


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