Rusted wire, skulls and what look like antique BDSM/torture devices adorn the walls. If you’re wondering what den of iniquity you’ve wandered into, don’t panic - you just haven’t been to the Commoner before. Always champions of the whole-beast philosophy and old-school culinary techniques, they’ve carried the theme with them to the new upstairs bar with adjoining private dining space ‘The Rabbit Trap’. This is no carnival of horror; just an acknowledgement of the tools of the trade - like brandy, pipes and tweed jackets (all of which we’d like to see more of, everywhere). Regardless, it’s definitely taking industrial chic to the next level.
Knowledgeable to a fault, the staff can be trusted to make drinks recommendations, especially if you plan to eat. Their cider, for example, proves an unconventional but excellent aperitif. Upstairs is open Wednesday through Sunday providing a casual space and while it’s not entirely an extension of the restaurant, you can up the ante on the already extensive small plates menu and get a $55 ‘feed me’ option that is one of the best value mini-feasts in Melbourne - fact. Take cold mussels in a sherry, dill and shallot vinaigrette, for example. Poor man’s oysters they may be, but they scream ocean more heartily than a remake of Titanic starring Jessica Watson. Soft-boiled egg with chilli jam follows, flanked by white anchovy crostini, sticky cumin-crusted pumpkin and a spiced chicken - all winners. A fancy Caesar salad is a bit left field, but the crunchy slices of pigs’ cheek ‘bacon’, cured and infused with nutmeg, are worthy of both a mention and a high five. We heart the Commoner, and loving Upstairs is proving easy. Gemima Cody