We might have lots of kiwi chefs in Melbourne hospitality, but precious few restaurants and bars stake New Zealand food front and centre on their menus. Maggie's Snacks & Liquor, a new bar and eatery on Lygon Street, Brunswick East, is here to change that.

Maggie’s Snacks & Liquor Co is the newest neighbourhood bar and eatery to hit Brunswick East’s Lygon Street strip. It’s a spot offering a playful, approachable menu that highlights seasonal, local produce with some hints of nostalgia thrown in for good measure, says managing director Kaidee Grzankowski. “We wanted to open a place that almost acted like a pub, a place you can enjoy a beer in your work clothes or a space you can celebrate in with a table full of good food and friends. We just want people to enjoy what we love, in their own way.”

The venue is named for Grzankowski’s nanna, an ex-army nurse who smokes like a chimney and drinks beer exclusively from vintage crystal stemware, but is equally keen on Champagne and oysters. “The way she drinks underpins the way we enjoy life,” Grzankowski says. “One minute we’re relaxing with a crispy beer, the next we’re drinking Champagne with oysters celebrating. Our tagline is ‘Seriously good, but not too serious’.”

The inspiration for the menu, meanwhile, comes from the land of the long white cloud, thanks to New Zealand-born chef Scott Blomfield, and takes in some of the greatest hits of his rural kiwi upbringing.

Here’s Grzankowski with the inside word, plus a few helpful trans-Tasman translations.

For those of us that don’t speak New Zealand, can you talk us through some of the more kiwi-core terms on the menu?

  • Kumara chips with kiwi onion dip: A party staple in NZ. Say the rugby is coming up, this is the go-to BYO dish. The only difference is our kumara chips are made in-house and our kiwi onion dip isn’t made the traditional way from the packet mix, it’s made from scratch.
  • House-baked nori sourdough with Marmite butter: This is a 95 per cent hydration sourdough made on a nine-year-old starter, a bread that Scotty has spent over 12 months perfecting. The Marmite butter has caused some tensions between the Aussies and Scotty, the only kiwi, but after tasting it we all agreed it is indeed superior to match Scotty’s bread.
  • Māori fried bread with pickled mussels, chorizo and pickled fennel: This came about when we were brainstorming what our house bread might be. Alejandro Archibald, our beverage director, comes from Belize, and Belize is known for its fry jacks, so Scotty offered up this version. Turns out that other than the shape (Belizean fry jacks are triangular), the texture and the way you eat them across the two cultures is pretty similar. Paraoa parai, Māori fried bread, is a delicacy that is often served at feasts, celebrations, or even on a Sunday afternoon on the side of a roast dinner. Ours is a delicious little snack, stuffed with chorizo and topped with pickled mussels and fennel. It’s super moreish; I describe it to customers as ‘kind of like a sexy hot pocket’. While our local vegan friends have plenty available on the menu, a few are in uproar that this is yet to be made available to them. Scotty and Jess Spooner, our sous chef, are experimenting as we speak.
  • Mushroom lasagne topped with yuzu mayo: Another kiwi staple. In Scotty’s words: “I’m over 40 and I still beg my mum to cook me these when I go home.” A nod to Scotty’s childhood NZ, where tuckshops and servos served these greasy, delectable little wonders. Ours is 100 per cent vegan and served with our pickled mushrooms and yuzu mayo. A slightly elevated version but still approachable.
  • Hangi potato smashies, boiled egg mayo and wakame: Who doesn’t love the humble potato? The kitchen wizards take little potatoes and cook them on ‘damp earth’. Not in a literal hangi, but ours take on the character from the damp earth. They’re crisp on the outside and oh so fluffy on the inside. Our boiled egg mayo and wakame topper honestly takes the cake.
  • Mum’s apple short cake, kiwi fruit sorbet, L&P snow, Chantilly and compressed apple: Scotty’s mum’s homemade recipe! Another nostalgic bowl for him. And we love it. The L&P snow is made from actual cans of L&P – Lemon & Paeroa, a lemon-flavoured soft drink originally made with naturally carbonated mineral water from the town of Paeroa.If there’s one dish or thing we shouldn’t miss first visit, what is it?

This is a hard one. But my absolute favourite and a hit with our customers so far is our crispy chicken skin sando. It’s compressed and baked crispy chicken skin, filled with chicken liver parfait, the fluffiest you’ll ever eat, with Cognac jelly and Davidson plum. I could happily eat 10 of these, die of a heart attack and be brought back to life only to do it all over again. Worth it.

Also, the ice-cream we make absolutely slaps. The honey and truffle we have on right now is so completely addictive you want to sit in a dark corner eating it as fast as you can while no one is looking

And what are we drinking?
Don’t go past Maggie’s Table Beer, a crisp tap lager, perfect for a knock off or a palate cleanser. Or the Seasonal Cobbler, which right now features honeydew melon, genmaicha tea, Pennyweight fino apera, Jimmy Rum Silver. Or the back bar chock-full of Aussie favourites plus four doors of vino featuring everything from affordable Aussie lo-fi numbers to some classic Chablis and Champagne. Oh, and if you like your cocktails, definitely do not go past the Beeswax Martinez, featuring Saison Fallen Quince vermouth, Pineapple Sage Apera Blend, Saint Felix Forest Gin and maraschino, aged in-house in bottles lined with locally made beeswax.

Maggie’s Snacks & Liquor, 98/100 Lygon St, Brunswick East, maggiesbar.com.au, @maggiessnacksandliquor