Bar Ampere sits above one of Melbourne’s oldest electrical substations, once used to power the city’s iconic rickety green and yellow trams.
Whilst the substation still supplies power to 5% of Melbourne’s grid, the vibrant buzz is more so in the bar than below the surface.
The name spins from the founder of electromagnetism, André-Marie Ampère, and as with many discoveries, the unit of measurement was simply derived from his last name. Bar Ampere pays homage to the original, and somewhat forgotten, genius.
As another kooky brainchild of Vernon Chalker, Bar Ampere can only be described as back-to-the-future meets Parisian chic. If you’re familiar with his previous works on The Order of Melbourne, Collins Quarter, Madame Brussels and Gin Palace, the decor should come as no surprise. The essence of this bar is driven by co-owner, Benjamin Luzz – a bonafide absinthe connoisseur.
Although open for lunch during the week, the main event is the afternoon sippers and weekend aperitifs. Bar Ampere proudly boasts the largest number of absinthes in the southern hemisphere, which are served according to the traditional ritual. Using a vintage fountain, ice-cold water is slowly dripped through a sugar cube and into the absinthe, producing a cloudy and semi-sugary tipple.
An extensive list of European vermouths, amaro, and spirits is also available and wine is not forgotten. Expect an array of French, Spanish and Italian reds, whites and rosé, as well as champagne for those special occasions.
Cocktails change with the seasons but are far from your mainstream cosmopolitans and Long Island iced teas. The Swanson mixes Monkey Shoulder whisky with Pedro Ximinez and walnut bitters, served with a piece of torched bacon on top. Or if you’re wanting to try absinthe but aren’t game enough to have it straight, opt for the Peas and Love –combining Ransom Dry gin with pear liqueur, lime, mint, fresh snow peas and Butterfly Absinthe.
Whilst you’re sipping on your concoction and discussing French politics, why not nibble on Bar Ampere’s share plates. The raclette – served hot and melted with a warm baguette – will pad out your stomach for the night, but if it’s just a nibble you’re after, try the steak tartare of Black Angus beef, diced capers, cornichons, Dijon mustard, croutons and a quail egg. If you’re up for something larger, a menu of pimped up sandwiches and burgers will come to your rescue.
It’s not just the food and drinks that communicate the Parisian vibe: concrete archways frame the outdoor courtyard with wrought-iron semicircular decorations, and seats face outward in true French style, leaving you to people watch with ease. Inside, an impressive glowing bottle wall adds to the art deco feel, along with slightly creepy hands holding onto the light fixtures by their exposed cords.
For something even more surprising, step out back into the ‘swamp room’ – decked out with Spanish moss, low laying lounge chairs and a decrepit pianola – the space transforms into an impressive bar later in the week.
From here, you can take a seat or easily step into sister bar, Gin Palace, for a change of scene. Either way, you’re bound to have a good time.