Francesca’s Bar Northcote
As a kid growing up, there was one big house in the neighbourhood that everyone would descend on after school. And for school holidays there was a big country house that family friends headed to. These were extra special places where the door was always open and the vibe was relaxed. They were places to escape to for fun and recreation – board games, ping-pong, pool table, music, totem tennis, dress-ups, Lego and Atari. Kids would play and parents would chat for hours. It’s one of the best memories I have of my Aussie 70’s upbringing.
Sitting at the bar at Francesca’s I was taken back to those childhood memories. I felt like I was sitting in someone’s den with the ping-pong table to the right and the foosball to the left. I was reminded of the love, laughter and friendship that filled those places.
Francesca’s is a family business, which opened in September 2013. Husband and wife team, Jane and Ben, and Jane’s sister Prue bought the business – formerly a struggling, run-down venue called Willow Bar – and renovated it with the help of their family and friends. There’s a bit of family in everything at Fran’s, from the cocktail glasses that belonged to Ben’s Grandma to the recycled pallet wall and vertical garden in the courtyard built by Jane and Prue’s Dad.
Named after Ben’s cousin Francesca, a student teacher who passed away at just 20 while on a gap year in Wales, Francesca’s Bar is somewhere for her memory and spirit to live on. A bubbly, vivacious, fun loving girl, dearly loved by her family and popular amongst her peers, Francesca had a big heart, something that is emulated through the entire concept of the bar and all the styling details that make it so homey.
Francesca’s is a place where everyone is welcome and regulars come in to chat to the bartender or make new friends at the bar, earning the hash tag #fransfam. It’s a true local with an old school vibe and the sense of community of a country pub, thanks to Ben. Even with his 17 years experience in city bars and clubs, Ben is still a country boy at heart. Third generation hospitality, Ben grew up in his Dad and Grandpa’s pubs. It’s in the blood.
In fact, the team at Francesca’s Bar are all about the community. They buy local and the more local the better, from the flowers to the local ingredients for their drinks to local craft beer and wine to the pizza menu at the bar.
On any night of the week you’ll find the local hospitality crowd at Fran’s taking advantage of the late liquor license, playing ping-pong and eating pizza after knock-off. Of a weekend, you’ll find a themed “queer friendly” Sunday session called Fanny’s @ Franny’s. On weeknights you might find music trivia or a charity event or an open mic night. This is not your average bar, but it is certainly an inclusive one.
Francesca’s is a place to be yourself. Perch on a stool at the bar and chat to Ben as he works his cocktail magic; grab one of the booths in front of the DJ box; sit at the bench by the window and watch the action on High Street; hang out in the courtyard out back; play ping pong; or dance. This is your happy place.
White Chocolate & Passionfruit Martini
Fragrant and fruity, and like drinking a sweet and creamy passionfruit dessert, this cocktail is mixed with 42 Below Passionfruit Vodka, Alize Gold, passionfruit pulp, pineapple juice and white chocolate syrup, then garnished with half passionfruit and white chocolate shavings.
Cinnamon Whisky Sour
A very clever twist on the classic whisky sour, this cocktail has just the right level of sweetness along with the tang of the lemon and the spice of the cinnamon. Mixed with Fireball Whisky, lemon, sugar and egg white, then garnished with a lemon rind rose and a cinnamon stick.
Kiwi & Apple Crush
A good, refreshing long drink with a bit of zing, this cocktail is mixed with Zubrowska Vodka, Peach Schnapps, fresh muddled kiwi fruit, apple and lime over crushed ice.
Open 7 days. Sun-Thurs 5pm to 1am. Fri-Sat 5pm to 3am.
222 High Street, Northcote
“Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup.”
– Paulo Coelho