It's Beautiful Here
With Matthew Bax
Matt and I first met way back in 2002 when I returned from living in London and moved in with two of my best friends in Melbourne's Richmond. Matt's bar, Der Raum (which opened a year earlier on Church Street Richmond), was a 2 minute walk from our house. It quickly became our local. We had never really seen anything like that before in Melbourne - a beautiful, cosy bar serving classic drinks, underneath a mass of hanging bottles. It was amazing. I asked Matt if I could book out the bar for one of my birthday parties, and then did it the next year as well. We became fast friends. There were many fun times spent between those walls.
But it wasn't just Der Raum that kept him busy. An artist by trade, Matt was also doing art shows both in Australia and Germany (where he lived for a long time) at the same time. I remember going to one of his shows in St Kilda maybe 17 years ago! His drinks started getting every more fancy as he began experimenting with molecular gastronomy techniques using things like nitrogen and evaporation - there was a drink that was served in a medicine bottle for example, with an Aperol-filled syringe and a sherbet pill. Everything was made in- house. Der Raum became a Melbourne institution and it was sad for everyone when it closed in 2012.
In 2009 Matt also opened The Tippling Club in Singapore, and then in 2011 he returned to Melbourne to open Bar Americano in a back alley of the city. Teeny tiny and with only a license for 10 people (standing room only), it was hidden away in a graffiti covered laneway and quickly became the place for the best cocktails in town (the negroni being the most popular). It was Melbourne's first really good hidden laneway bar (with just an Italian Tabbachi sign out the front to mark its location).
When Der Raum shut down in 2012, Matt went on to open a very different style bar, Bar Economico, in the former Der Raum site, and Bar Exuberante as well. He didn't stop there though, also opening a bar called Gamsei in Munich, which he ran in 2013 and 2014; a popup tea room SAMU in 2016; and then later the Grau Projekt, a contemporary art gallery space located in a 1050sqm warehouse in Clifton Hill, in 2018.
Needless to say, he has been busy. Matt has done A LOT. He has done a lot for Melbourne. He has certainly brought an enormous amount of creativity and inspiration to the Melbourne bar scene and art world, and for that we should be very thankful.
Last Saturday 3 December 2022 was the final day of service for Bar Americano.
The tiny little bar that we all love so much has sadly come to an end.
It was an honour to be there for last drinks.
And it is an honour to speak to Matt here.
Matt, thank you. Melbourne owes you a lot. x
Thank you thank you thank you for your constant service and dedication to the Melbourne bar (and art) scene. I for one am very grateful for all the amazing venues you have dreamed up and brought to life. Bar Americano was the first ever, secret little laneway bar in Melbourne - and the smallest (holding only 12 people, standing room only) - and has been going strong for 11 years. What will be do without it?!!!
So some questions for you...
How are you feeling about Bar Americano coming to an end?
Began with shock, anger and stress, blending into embarrassment then excitement and hope but now it’s mostly nostalgic and emotional.
What will you miss the most?
The nights when it flows perfectly, when it’s fun on both sides of the bar. The best thing about this industry is you generally get instant feedback if you are doing your job well.
What will you not miss at all?
Late nights and things ( break ins, flooding , power outs etc) going down on your few nights off.
Is the negroni your most popular drink?
Yes I think it is the clear winner at the bar.
How many do you think you served at the closing party last week?
We served 150 I think
You had cooking royalty by way of the formidable Ben Shewry at the closing party. Ben was serving up wallaby and pork "Corn Dogs" - some of the best things I have ever tasted in my life!!! What is a Corn Dog??
I know it as a Dagwood Dog but I’ve never had one. They seem to only appear at Royal shows.
Other favourite Melbourne places for:
Geez , that’s hard to narrow...
Everyday coffee / Midtown
Heart Attack & Vine
Attica ( of course)
Di Stasio Citta and the courtyard in Carlton
Black Art Projects
Sun Theatre is the best cinema on the planet as far as I can tell. We are so lucky to have people like that here.
I get to the Aus Opera and Aus Ballet each year. Always a pretty magical evening.
I’m not sure watching Carlton is fun but I still do it every week.
I love Good Vibes Yoga in Collingwood (although I don’t go enough).
A run around the tan on our few good days of fine weather is always pretty special.
A splash in the sea in either direction but you need to spend at least an hour in the car.
You must be in desperate need of a holiday!!! Where will you be travelling to next?
Japan in April to attend my tea school
Window or aisle seat?
Beach or city?
What 3 things are always in your suitcase?
Travel tea chest
Who is inspiring you the most right now?
Words you live by…
Try to be present in the now
And...What’s next for Matt Bax?
A long summer
Time with my mutt, Lumpi
Plenty of painting
Catching up with my family and friends after a massive 6 straight weeks of 7 days
And then hopefully a sabbatical to figure out what’s next...
*Follow Matt here for what happens next.