Noisy, but your tastebuds will thank you

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Padrons… a “must-try” served with smoked labneh and chicken salt. Photo: Wendy Johnson

“Sharing is the go at Bar Rochford. The menu is compact but there wasn’t an item we wouldn’t have ordered. We toured our way through several exciting dishes,” writes dining reviewer WENDY JOHNSON

Bar Rochford is no ordinary wine and cocktail bar. It’s picked up a hat in the Good Food Guide, has been ranked as one of Australia’s top bars, and all with good reason. 

This funky and vibey establishment, tucked upstairs in the historic Melbourne Building, has a unique offering and is determined to keep it that way.

Four of us hit the bar for food and wine and our tastebuds are still thanking us. 

Sharing is the go at Bar Rochford. The menu is compact but there wasn’t an item we wouldn’t have ordered. We toured our way through several exciting dishes – too many to pack into this review! 

Gruyere gougeres… baked savoury choux pastry featuring sweet but slightly salty cheese. Photo: Wendy Johnson

First up was the Gruyere gougeres ($12). They were divine – baked savoury choux pastry featuring sweet but slightly salty cheese. This is a we-must-return-just-for-this-dish dish. 

Bar Rochford’s specials board included prawn wontons with lap cheong and black vinegar (five for $28). They looked elegant on the plate and the flavour combo was pure perfection. 

We were curious about the padrons with smoked labneh and chicken salt ($12). It’s a must-try dish and fun to eat. The Spanish chili peppers were blistered with each varying in heat and the labneh smokey and creamy.

Steak tartare… fabulous presentation. Photo: Wendy Johnson

The presentation of the steak tartare was fabulous and we delighted in mixing the egg into the raw meat and then scooping it up with crispy crisps ($20).

We stumbled across friends at Bar Rochford, who had just been served the cauliflower, cashew and cascabel ($18). It motivated us to follow suit. Once more our tastebuds danced. 

It was great to see kangaroo on the menu ($30) – super tender and amazing with macadamia and blackberry. Last, but not least, were perfect cubes of French onion galette – a real treat ($12).

Perfect cubes of French onion galette. Photo: Wendy Johnson

The wine list is sensational, extensive (pages and pages presented in a little binder) and carefully curated. It features many international drops, but district wines aren’t forgotten, like our hand-crafted Mallaluka Fiano/Viognier (skin ferment, $73 a bottle). It’s no surprise Bar Rochford made a real presence at the Young Guns of Wine Wineslinger Awards.

At Bar Rochford, you can pop by anytime for drinks and bar snacks but if you want to dine you should reserve (check website for conditions).

Being a bar there’s plenty of noise when Rochford is packed (and it quickly became packed on our visit). This isn’t the type of place you want to head for a quiet chat with friends; you need to speak loudly to be heard.

Prawn wontons… elegant with lap cheong and black vinegar. Photo: Wendy Johnson

Despite the noise levels, Bar Rochford lives up to its promise – fine food, exciting wine producers, fancy cocktails, sharp spirits, great music and attentive, knowledgeable service.

Bar Rochford, First floor, 65 London Circuit, Civic. Open Tuesday-Thursday, 5pm to late; Friday, 3pm-1am and Saturday, 5pm to 1am.


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Wendy Johnson
Wendy Johnson: Food reviewer for Canberra CityNews magazine since 2004, covering stories for true foodies to digest.

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