Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Published August 5th 2011
Situated at 767 Nicholson St, Bar Fred ignores the fancy trappings of most bars – such as elaborate cocktails or a food menu that needs more than one page – and focuses on the two things it does well: beer and pizza, in that order. It's a nice place to sit and talk, and the atmosphere is casual and relaxed while avoiding crassness. If beer and pizza is your thing, you owe yourself a visit.
Let's get everything else out of the way: the décor is surprisingly pleasant, with murals on the walls and old-fashioned leather chairs and tables. The music floating above the conversations is guaranteed to be classic: think The Cure or Leonard Cohen. Bar Fred fills up quickly on a Friday night, so show up early to get a table. You'll want to, since the staff no longer let you order takeaway pizza.
The pizza menu – the only food offered at Bar Fred – is short and simple. There are eight pizzas in total: four vegetarian, four non-vegetarian. There are no vegan options since the disappointing removal of the Vegan Special. Every pizza is delicious and large enough for a hearty meal: try the rosemary and potato one for a lesson in the judicious use of herbs. Luckily, Bar Fred understand how Italian food is best enjoyed – each pizza is only five dollars when you order a beer.
The beer menu is the opposite of the food menu. It's about ten times as long (seriously) and full of variety. Everything is in bottles – no pots or pints from the tap here – but the prices aren't too ridiculous. There's a selection of German lagers that are always priced at five dollars a bottle, which is especially good value when you get a pizza as well. For those who are willing to shell out a little more, Bar Fred stocks the truly excellent Weihanstephaner Hefeweissbier at fifteen dollars or several Trappist beers for around the same. Even beer novices are catered for, with peach and cherry lambics, or fruit-flavoured beer, on offer. Stick to the peach, though, as the cherry flavour has an unpleasant chemical flavour.
From the oldest brewery in the world.
The job of a bartender is to serve drinks, not to chat. A surly face behind the bar won't make the beer any warmer or the pizza any colder. Nevertheless, if you're the kind of person who can't get by without a smile from your friendly alcohol dispenser, Bar Fred might not be for you.
More seriously, don't go here for a birthday party and bring your own cake – this is not a place where you can spread out and do your own thing. Bar Fred is a specialized bar for people who love beer. There are plenty of bars in Melbourne which try to be a little bit of everything, bars that would welcome people holding anything from a birthday party to an awards presentation. This is not one of those bars. If it doesn't involve pizza or beer, Bar Fred doesn't want to hear about it.