Pintxos. Pronounce that as 'pinchos' and you'll be on the right track. A Spanish invention, the pintxo is a tiny snack skewered onto a piece of crusty bread, served on massive platters. By extention, a pintxo bar is where these tasty morsels are offered up by the platter-full, accomapnied by Spanish wines and drinks.
Until now, the pintxo idea has been largely ignored in the Melbourne district. Enter Naked for Satan, a newly-opened pintxo bar close to the corner of Johnston and Brunswick St. With a fasincating (although possibly amped up) backstory and a Spain-meets-steampunk vibe, this bar is sure to cause a stir in the Brunswick/Fitzroy area.
As a bouncer opens the door for you (something I'll return to later...), enter a large open space, filled with golden tubes and large barrels filled with unidentified liquids. Pretty impressive. Find a seat either in the opening room or the wood-lined upper bar space and get yourself ready to pintxo it up.
This is the deal: go to the bar, pick up a plate. Attack any pintxo platter you want, and take as much or as little as you want. Sit back down, enjoy. But don't pay...yet. This 'honour system' has long been used in places such as Lentil as Anything, where you pay as much as you feel the food is worth. However...this is FItzroy. You'll be paying.
At $2 per pintxo, you'd be mad not to try a few. And for the most part, they're passable. Jamon Serrano ham, seafood and carrot topped with roe, seared Wagyu salami, spicy meatballs, the list goes on. Overall, I'd say there was around 25 different styles of pintxos available. However, a small minority of them turned out to be quite underwhelming: dry bread, lifeless flavours. At $2 a pop, you'd expect good stuff, but it all comes off as a but half-hearted.
However, one cannot say the same thing about the drinks. A nice selection of infused vodkas sit above the bar in copper barrels: opium and rose, naked bitch (chilli and cherry), violet, alpine choc, all infused into Absolut vodka. These naughty little vodkas really hit the spot: the violet vodka was sweet and purple, but not overwhelming, where the opium and rose was actually like drinking liquid rose petals. Yum. The winning streak with drinks continues into the Naked Cider (made for the bar by Bulmers) and the Naked for Satan ale, tasting surprisingly like Hoegaarden in its wheaty, orange overtones.
Back to the bouncers. A discussion erupted over our table about the necessity of the security in Naked for Satan: two large, intimidating men with steel scowls and clasped hands stood by the door all night. Normally, security in a place like this would be more relaxed, friendly. These guys looked like they were ready for a fight, and apart from a courteous door-opening, were an eyesore.
One last point: don't forget to pay as you leave. Keep your skewers and return them later to the bar: pay for as many as you have on you. Just don't forget they're there. This was our downfall. An 'honour system' is technically where you pay how much you want to pay for. Accidentally, after too many vodkas, we left without paying for the $10 of pintxos we ate (that's five, for reference). The bouncer then lept down the street with the waitress to kindly (read: forcefully) inform us we forgot to pay. Oh, I apologised. I forgot this was Fitzroy. Honour systems aren't what they used to be, apparently.
Overall, go to Naked for Satan for the drinks. They really are a lot of fun and inexpensive. However, the pintxos leave a lot to be desired, as too with the ambience.