The Ugly Duckling, Richmond

Author: Maggie Scardifield
Photography: Anthony Licuria

Swan Street in Melbourne's Richmond is on the up. Just a few months back we reported that our favourite fried-chicken slinger, Morgan McGlone, would open another outpost of Belle's on Swan Street. Now comes The Ugly Duckling, East Richmond's newest wine and cocktail bar, which is anything but ugly.

A project by David Abela (founder of 3 Degrees Marketing), Andrew Ryan (Mitchelton Wines, Melbourne Pub Group), and Daniel Vid (Circa, Newmarket Hotel and Middle Park Hotel), The Ugly Duckling opens this week on the site of one of Melbourne's first department stores, Balls Corner, a 19th-century, heritage-listed building.

Abela has owned the property for 10 years and, unsure of exactly what he wanted to do with it, he's always referred to it as the ugly duckling."The exterior of the building is quite ordinary and can be easily dismissed," he says, "but when you look a little closer, there's something special about it. It feels intimate and residential."

Melbourne design-firm Hecker Guthrie is responsible for the fit-out, which features a dimly lit space at the front with a custom-designed, grey marble bar, and a larger seating area underneath the building's original glass atrium at the rear. Plenty of indoor plants, natural wood surfaces and Bouroullec furniture lend the space a conservatory-like feel.

The menu, Abela tells us, is focused around "European-style hospitality" and dishes "that enhance and support the drinking experience". So far, this includes warm olives and truffle potato crisps (served on handmade ceramics from Mud Australia), plus larger boards of cheese from Richmond Hill Café & Larder and charcuterie. On the drinks front, there are more than a hundred wines, including Giaconda Chardonnay and Patrice Rion Burgundy, and plenty available by the glass.

"Andrew, Daniel and I love entertaining," says Abela. "We wanted to create somewhere that's as equally suited to a pre-dinner Peroni as it is to a long night of wine and cocktails with friends."

Barman Nick Selvadurai (formerly of Cookie) will mix cocktails such as the Bitterball Bucks (Tanqueray 10, pink grapefruit juice, Campari spheres, Champagne) and, for the after-dinner set, handmade chocolates from Malvern's Ministry of Chocolate are available from the bar.

"It's a similar feel to how you'd entertain at home," says Abela. Albeit a home with a full suite of Riedel.

The Ugly Duckling, 238 Swan St, Richmond, Vic, (03) 9429 1498; open daily 3pm-1am. 

Not in Melbourne? Here are six other cosy bars from around the country.


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