For most, the 1920s weren’t such a great time to be alive. But by George, if you were one of the lucky few who had plenty of money and weren’t perishing of consumption, life in the Roaring Twenties was extraordinarily stylish. North Fitzroy’s Deco celebrates that happy visual and musical heritage to the hilt.
Maroon-walled and lit only by candles and a few dim lamps, it’s so dark that it can take a minute for the eye to adjust; however, it’s anything but gloomy. The long narrow bar room is ringed with deep armchairs, comfortable couches and potted palms thriving in the dark, in defiance of the laws of nature. Art Deco-style statuettes and trinkets adorn the bar, and the walls are lined with photos and painting chosen to evoke the decade.
It seems the perfect setting to enjoy a martini, and naturally there are cocktails on offer. But Deco is first and foremost a wine bar, and the friendly neighbourhood vibe belies a serious approach to wine and beer. The range of wines available by the glass changes frequently and makes up a relatively small part of the menu; the by-the-bottle selection spans the globe and is almost imposingly large: fortunately the bartender will happily help you choose. The beer list ranges from the domestic to the exotic, and in price from $6 a bottle to $200 (don’t panic, almost everything is at the low end of that scale – the exception is Brew Dog’s Tactical Nuclear Penguin, of which only 500 bottles were made).
As far as food goes, cheese platters, pizzas and desserts can be ordered from neighbouring restaurants and delicatessens and delivered to your table. That option seems especially popular on Sundays, when live jazz or blues bands play free in the middle of the bar.
The back door leads to a large, astroturfed beer garden, laden with lanterns and umbrellas; the environmentally-friendly heating system consists of a stack of cosy wool blankets for wrapping up in when things get too raw. It may draw its stylistic cues from the Twenties, but Deco blends that sophistication with a refreshingly modern lack of pretension.