A Melbourne based writer who is a travel junkie, dedicated foodie and emerging photographer.
Published August 16th 2019
Souk's new sister bar goes fully vegan
Middle Eastern-inspired restaurant Souk has recently reopened following a major renovation. Responding to industry changes and a need to stay competitive in the hospitality market, owner Ergun Elmas has split the space into two venues, with Souk occupying the upstairs space, and a new enterprise, Handsome Bar, taking over downstairs. "It's a new stage for us," says Elmas. "We wanted to change, to add a different legacy for Souk together with our new project Handsome Bar."
Handsome Bar - even the cocktails are 100% plant based. (Image supplied.)
Handsome Bar can be entered through a separate door to Souk, creating a physical separation, and meaning the two venues can have different operating hours, and also very different ambiences. Along with the decor, Souk's menu has been updated, although you can still expect the high-quality food and drinks that Souk has become known for. You might, for example, choose the fried Brussels sprouts with nigella, soy and sweet sticky pomegranate ($12), paired with the crispy spiced lamb ribs with toasted garlic, mint vinegar and garlic yoghurt ($17).
Downstairs in Handsome Bar, the approach is entirely different. The 'compact' menu, comprising eight dishes, is exclusively plant-based. So too is the cocktail list. The brief, according to General Manager Alla Payne (ex Lucy Liu), was not only to develop a menu that was completely vegan, but also "to make sure it tastes good". The dishes I tasted certainly DID taste good, and it was impossible to tell they weren't meat-based. For example, there are "sausage rolls" served with rosella t-sauce ($14) and "bone marrow" eggplant fondue, with daikon, soy, parsley and toast ($15). Nibble on some complimentary dry spiced popcorn as you sip your drink.
Handsome Bar is softly lit, affording it an air of mystery and intimacy. The decor is an interesting mix of touches of luxury paired with retro furniture. The effect is somewhat shabby chic, and it feels homely and welcoming. It will be a great place to drop in for a relaxed pre- or post-dinner or theatre drink.
Handsome Bar and Souk are located at 13 Bligh Place, Melbourne. Handsome Bar is open from 4pm til late Tuesday to Thursday, and 2pm til late Friday and Saturday. Souk is open 5pm til late Tuesday to Saturday (opens 4pm on Fridays).
Drop-in for a pre-dinner drink at Handsome Bar before wandering upstairs to experience the gastronomic delights on offer at Souk.
Except where indicated, the images in this article were taken by the writer.