If you're the type that loves new and perhaps a little off- beat experiences, try Naked for Satan in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy on any day of the week. The building (Moran and Cato) doesn't leap out at you from a passing car, but as you approach on foot the first thing you notice is the old copper distillery equipment in the window.
I entered with a little trepidation as my idea of an inner suburban Spanish Bar was that it would be noisy, packed with only the young and beautiful and with not much food to accompany the copious amounts of alcohol available. The place is actually not so small, and was patronised by young mums, families, and seasoned regulars.
One question is where exactly did the name originate from? Apparently, when the building was being renovated, a photograph of who is thought to be Leon Satanovitch was discovered, and research brought the following to light.
After his family perished in the pogroms, Leon fled from Russia to Melbourne. He was employed as a cleaner and caretaker at the Moran and Cato building in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, the site of the now eclectic bar. So in typical Australian fashion, the name Satanovitch was shortened to Satan in no time at all. The following year saw part of the building closed due to The Great Depression and "Satan" was given the task of clearing it.
After finding copper boilers and water tanks, he built vodka stills in his caretaker's quarters. As alcohol was very expensive during this time, Leon shared his vodka with anyone who was prepared to help him. Some even brought grain and kept him company while he distilled.
Melbourne's soaring heat and that from the burners under the stills made Summer almost unbearable and Satan would sometimes work in just his underwear. As moonshining was illegal they used the code "Let's get naked for Satan" to gain access to the drink. After the pubs closed on a Sunday, many would arrive at the clandestine establishment with bottles to be filled with "Satan's Vodka". The stills operated throughout the years of The Depression and were eventually abandoned in the late 1930s. World War II brought dramatic changes to this great country and the Fitzroy stills were lost for many years.
The burnished copper distillery equipment is very striking, and you'll find polished wood walls and several quirky lights suspended from the very high ceiling. It gave a warm and inviting glow to the place and everyone seemed relaxed and happy.
In the glass counter in front of the bar, is a vast array of small tapas style snacks on sourdough bread called pintxos (pin-choss) at $2 each. If you visit in the off-peak times, these are only 80c each. Varieties such as thin salami, smoked salmon with pickled onion and anchovies, olives and pepperoni, roasted peppers, cheeses and terrines ensured that I didn't drink on an empty stomach. There was a huge selection of saucy sounding cocktails and various other alcoholic fantasies to choose from.
If so far it's sounding like any other Tapas Bar, there are two very good reasons that make it stand out as different. Here you pay after you've eaten according to the number of toothpicks you present at the end of your visit. Each pintxos sports a toothpick, so it could be likened to playing poker for matchsticks when you were a child. Choosing just a couple of pintxos in the first instance is fine, however, the damage is done when you select the morsels from the roving waiters while you're consuming your cocktails or coffee. It's amazing just how many little toothpicks you can accumulate in one afternoon!
As you take the mandatory trip to the bathroom before you leave, you discover the other stand-out difference. The walls on both sides of the hallway are a collection of scantily- clad, glamorous beauties of both sexes. This isn't tawdry or crude, it is just fun. Many of the characters are from the 1920s and 30s and resemble the billing posters for some of the early movies.
The entire experience was fun. Would I go back again? Certainly. The ambience tells me that the place would rock on a Saturday evening. Sadly being past the age of socializing into the wee hours of Sunday morning with a cocktail or two, I'd be content to wander in at any other time and soak up the atmosphere.