That's right, folks, Bill's Bar is inside Huxtaburger. Wagyu within reach, hard liquor on hand and fried chicken to fill the gap? This bit of Smith Street dirt is the place-to-be of now.
Do-si-do past the burger devotees all trying to out-trendy each other (“This queue’s longer than an iPad 3 launch!”), circumnavigate the fridge, and then melt oh-so-coolly through the wall panel into the darkness beyond. This friends, is the definition of a speakeasy – concealed entrance, top-shelf-hooch, one-way mirrors facing the street so you can see when the fuzz is coming and the jig is up. We’re not sure where you’d escape to, but since mod-Aus-Korean-Creole-tapas restaurant Huxtable begat Huxtaburger, and now Bill’s has mutated off the side, we can’t help but imagine there’s a trap door out back leading to further fun. An alley way casino, maybe? We wouldn’t be surprised – each of Dante Ruaine and Jeff Wong’s ventures seems to be dragging Melbourne deeper into addiction.
Seated in Bill’s tanned leather banquettes with jazz a jazzin’, and candles casting a dusky light there’s the strong inclination to smoke cigars, gamble your shirt off and drink like nobody’s watching. It’s where namesake Bill Cosby would have come to pound Scotch and cuss up a storm to take the edge off being America’s best dad.
It’s a bar for seasoned drinkers. Cocktails are limited only by your imagination, but not pushed, and while Ruaine’s brought a good smack of wines across from Huxtable, it’s all about hard liquor here. Every darn tootin’ bottle on the shelf goes for $9 a measure. Expensive gear like Casa Noble Anejo tequila. Sweet Glenmorangie Lasanta single malt. All $9. If you’re aiming for a smooth entrance into the evening, you could ask for a Scotch Tom Collins where it knocks boots with lemon and soda. If not, try their arrestingly named ‘this shits be nasty’ – a version of a Wastrel’s Punch that consists of ‘various liquors, mixed’. But we say apply it directly to yourself with a cube of ice and a side of devilled eggs.
The snacks here a worth a nudge. Beef short ribs with a pickle stank of kimchi are encased in a paper-thin pancake; juicy pulled pork is slipped into a sweet brioche bun, and large chunks of crab are deep fried with batter into crisp golden pucks.
Bill’s is already copping a flogging with the popular stick, but we're not surprised. This is most fun you can have between two bits of bread.