Published on July 29 2019.
Meatball, provolone and pecorino. Salt beef and slaw. Pickled Padrons and Manchego. The R Bar sandwich offer is large and it is wonderful. There’s carb-loading opportunities in the Russian (potato) salad with preserved tuna, dainty thrills in finger sandwiches freighting chicken and walnut, cucumber and mustard, and (of course) curried egg, plus crostini loaded with the likes of devilled egg, pea and ricotta and prosciutto and goat’s cheese. Oh and there's also a pretty hefty chip butty with sauce from the experts at Heinz.
And that, folks, is before you factor in breakfast. Putting the excellent things on toast to one side, there’s panini packed with smoked salmon and crème fraîche, with ham, Gruyère and tomato, and – wait for it – another with a bacon and roast-tomato frittata.
The things that aren’t sandwiches also do not suck: pastries from Lune, house muesli with Schultz milk, and baked eggs at breakfast. Salads Waldorf, Caesar and Russian, plus the neo-classic Rockpool leaf salad with palm sugar vinaigrette.
From mid-morning, the sandwich line-up gets serious, not least of all with The Godmother, a sandwich inspired by the sandwich of the same name from Bay Cities Italian Deli in Santa Monica, California, that involves prosciutto, mortadella, capocollo, smoked ham, provolone, lettuce, onion, tomato, cucumber, pickled chilli and, just for good measure, hot sauce.
The meatball sandwich
All this takes place in the space that was once The Waiting Room, just off the lobby of Crown Towers. It’s been put back in the hands of the Rockpool Group after a six-year spell of being operated directly by the hotel, and the new offer is supercharged, and then some. The central idea is taking everything that’s good about the great hotel bars of the world and dialling it up to 11.
That means five kinds of oysters, seven kinds of roe, four kinds of fancy nuts, five varieties of olive, seven premium kinds of tinned fish, six great coldcuts and – deep breath – five fine cheeses on the snack counter from 11am onward.
(There’s also Baker Bleu bread and Lescure butter on the menu, so if you wanted to turn any or all of those things into a DIY sandwich – razor clams, gordal olive and pickled chillies, say, or white beans and caviar, you can follow your dreams.)
What if you prefer to take your refreshment in purely liquid form? That is a long way from being a problem. The handsome oak casks lining the hallway signal more-than-passing interest in barrel-aged cocktails. Does ageing improve a Negroni? What’s the difference between a Manhattan that’s had 10 days on wood and one that’s been there a month? There’s options to taste flights of the aged drinks alongside versions made fresh. However you want to play it, on the education/entertainment spectrum, R Bar has something in excess of 600 litres of cocktails right now, all sitting in barrel, quietly maturing, waiting for you to turn their spigot and bring them to life in the glass. The Dirty Martini might just be the dirtiest in town.
Martinis are an R Bar feature
All these drinks would go very nicely with the hot savouries, a very moreish selection containing such highlights as Ortiz Gran Reserva anchovies on grilled tomato toast and devils on horseback, not to mention French fries with a dusting of togarashi chilli powder.
Wine? By the glass there’s an almost all-Australian offer that puts Victoria front-and-centre with the likes of Gembrook Hill and Even Keel in the whites, a rosé from Luke Lambert, reds from Vinea Marston, Simão & Co and Caviste, plus a full chorus of beers, coffee, ciders, low ABV drinks and a Dry July cocktail selection that extends beyond a mere 31 days in the middle of the year.
Counting breakfast, burgers and crostini, you’re looking at in excess of 18 sandwiches – 18 excellent reasons to embrace lobby life anew. R Bar is open right now, breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks, seven days.
R Bar, lobby, Crown Towers, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank, Vic, rbarbyrockpool.com.au
By Pat Nourse