With the American/Southern/Mexican thang that the Melbourne food scene has going on at the moment, I guess it was only a matter of time before we hit the shores of Cuba.
Los Barbudos is a new Cuban cocktail bar from the Thank You, Come Again group that brought you Lily Blacks, Mr Wow’s Emporium, Double Happiness and New Gold Mountain (all bars I know and love). I was invited to their launch ahead of their public opening this Friday night and I predict that Los Barbudos will be the place to be on Smith Street tomorrow night with the prospect of $8 Mojitos and Cuba Libres from 5pm to 9pm.
The name ‘Los Barbudos’ refers to the bearded rebel forces of the Cuban Revolution and the baseball team founded by Fidel Castro. Hence the bar has a beardy Cuban/semi-religious/baseball/food truck theme, if you can believe it. At the moment the only way to spot it is by a solid blue door – apparently the neon sign which currently adorns the stairwell will be installed in the front window once they sort out some less blinding lights!
The bar was built from scratch from the remains of another business and absolutely everything had to be installed from scratch, from the toilets to the electricity to the rum cabinet.
And that’s what Los Barbudos specialises in – rum. We’re talking Mojitos, Cuba Libres (highballs made of cola, lime and white rum) and Hemingway Daquiris in addition to Cuban beers and Latin wines. We found the cocktails to be on the sweet end of the spectrum and the mojitos (and Cuba Libres) might be best value cocktails in town at $10 after the opening special.
Cuban food stuffs will be provided by ‘El Paladar’, a food truck to be run by the Chingon crew and from the end of the August it will be permanently parked in the upper level garage space en route to the loos (take another turn and you’ll end up at the back of Mr Wow’s Emporium).
For the moment the Cuban/Caribbean cuisine is being dished out by the striking copper Chingon taco truck and you’ll be able to order Cuban sandwiches, empanadas, Caribbean spiced chicken wings with Cuban rice and tostones con frijoles (fried plantains with black beans) which you can take back to the bar to eat.
From the food I tried I thought the wings could do with more seasoning and spice but the chicken-stock soaked bed of rice was delicious. The crunchy, lightly salted plantain chips made an interesting, banana-ry change from potato or corn chips and I enjoyed the spicy bean mixed with goats cheese. It’s no-frills, hearty and messy finger food and matched well with the slightly grungy, down-at-heel aesthetic of the bar.
The prime position is the front window bench where you can perch on a stool and watch the passing parade on Smith Street. Outside it’s wintery winds, inside it’s Carribean steaminess. Cuba, welcome to Fitzroy. Fitzroy, welcome to Cuba.