Andrew McConnell’s new bar and bistro on Fitzroy Street is a European union of natural wine and stylishly simple eats
If we were to tell you that another natural wine bar opened, but this time in St Kilda, serving French food next to a cheese shop and named after a landlocked country in Europe, you would most likely turn your nose up. Add the McConnell factor and happy hour and you might start listening. Unfortunately, all we’ve been hearing for the last month is Supernormal, McConnell’s Mod-Japanese baby, which has launched with a bang in the CBD.
Fortunately, the lack of column inches that Luxembourg has been getting means they’ve been given the opportunity to start slow(er) and get things right. Projects of Imagination are behind the refit, so there’s some signature Nick Cox neon. But, unlike all their other venues (Chin Chin, Supernormal, Yochi), they’ve used tacky European-style decorative neon signage reminiscent of France Soir and Pellegrini’s – which we love – rather than neon art. Luxembourg is occupying the defunct Golden Fields space. Remove the chicken-feet coat hangers, throw some white on the walls, erect some bookshelves, add an intimidating set of antlers and an open raw bar filled with various species of molluscs and you’ve got yourself a Franco-German city.
Never been to a wine bar that can bang out a mean house cocktail? Now you will. The Sidecar gets Frenched-up by Calvados (an apple brandy) in place of Cognac, making it sweeter and less gutsy. The Scofflaw’s got a lot of body and depth with a sugary edge, proving a rye whisky and vermouth can be perfectly balanced with what today’s bartenders now consider passé – grenadine. It’s easily our favourite cocktail on the list. The wines are natural, yes, but the staff don’t shove it down your throat like they’re trying to jump on any kind of bandwagon. We order the Mendall from Catalonia, made from Macabeau grapes, a very energetic red wine tasting of crunchy green apples with a chalky texture. It’s easy to get carried away with the list at Luxembourg, so you’ll be grateful at the lack of sulphur in the wines – meaning a gentler hangover.
Chris Watson has emigrated to Luxembourg from his post at Cutler & Co and has applied a Coco Chanel-like approach to the food: less is more. Take for example the three-component dish of thinly sliced raw scallops sitting in a ginger dressing topped with the counterpoint of fresh, bitter radish slithers. It’s a perfect match to the Equipo Navazos sherry from Spain they have on by the glass. Watson also takes potato skins, fries and fills them with whipped cod roe and tops them with avruga, elevating the whole chip-and-dip concept. Between 5-7pm nightly, all oysters are half price and Aperol Spritzes are $8, so expect a roll call of locals.
Get yourself to Luxembourg before you can’t get in, because when it’s hitting high notes with cocktails, wines and food. That is what we call a triple threat bar.