It seems like every time I scroll through my Facebook feed lately I come across a meme about how travelling makes you smarter, happier, funnier, richer or sexier. I’ve been taking it to mean that I’m not travelling enough, but now I think the Universe is actually telling me it’s why I don’t own a bar.
Seriously, when you dig to the backstory of most bars it appears they begin with an amazing trip to somewhere exotic. Travel buddies become inspired and simply cannot return to Melbourne unless they bring a piece of their new favourite place back with them. And wahlah! We have a bar.
That’s certainly the case with the group behind San Telmo. This incredible Argentinian bar and restaurant was a vision of two brothers who fell in love with a town called San Telmo in Argentina’s Buenos Aires.
And it’s the same hospitality group behind Pastuso, as well as a number of other venues around Melbourne. These guys are seriously widely travelled.
So there it is, the secret! Travel far and wide to realise your dreams.
San Telmo is the oldest neighbourhood in Buenos Aires and one that epitomises Argentinian lifestyle. Known best for three things: meat, tango and red wine, it’s a city that’s alive with culture.
As Buenos Aires’ first industrial area, San Telmo’s warehouses were used to store the city’s major exports of wool, hides and leather during Colonial Times. The area drew in waves of immigrant settlers throughout 19th century and eventually, the area’s cultural activity attracted artists and bohemians. It’s a melting pot that makes it the most multicultural neighbourhood in Buenos Aires today.
Once the city’s poorest area, art, music and tango became popularised in the 1960’s, helping spark an economic and cultural resurgence in San Telmo. It’s a mecca of contemporary art with a plethora of galleries and museums dotted all around the area.
Antique shops, churches and cafes line cobblestone streets filled with the colour and sound of street performers, a scene that is amplified every Sunday at Feria de San Telmo, San Telmo’s colourful street markets. Laneways conceal underground tango clubs and hidden bars and restaurants. It’s a rustic, old-worldly place that has preserved its heritage and character well.
From the picture it paints, you can see why the brothers’ fascination was compelling enough to spark an idea for a little piece of San Telmo back home.
Through atmosphere and interior styling, San Telmo successfully captures a sense of the place. South American music and the accents of Argentinian staff provide what seems like the hum of the land.
Patterns, textures, colours and lighting are entirely embracing, as you’d expect from South America. A lovely combination of wood, leather, hide, brick and brass make the place rich, warm and enveloping.
Quirky paraphernalia shipped in from the Motherland add a sense of intrigue and authenticity. And no attention to detail has been lost with touches of fileteads, that distinctive, ornamental writing so characteristic of San Telmo.
At its heart, San Telmo is an Argetinian restaurant. That means the venue’s main focus is on meat and wine. The bar is tucked out the back of the resturant with the main purpose of servicing restaurant clientelle, however with an all day licence and full bar menu it is equally welcoming to those seeking a cheeky drink.
Enter either through the main restaurant off Meyer’s Place or through the back entrance off Windsor Place, which brings you directly into the bar.
Keeping in theme, San Telmo has carefully curated its cocktail program to reflect Argentinian trends. In particular, the bar focuses on popular Argentinian ingredients and spirits, such as Fernet Branca, Vermouth, Cointreau and Campari with Fernet Branca being the hero.
Lead by their Buenos Airies born and bred Bar Manager, Gonzalo, the team encourage people to experience something different, taking the classic cocktails and adding an Argentinian twist.
The Buenos Aires born, Argentinian footballer is considered a Soccer great, not just in South America, but also across the World. Characterised “the best player of all time” he is worshipped in Argentina, regardless of his post career lowlights. Despite being straight-up this cocktail is shaken, not stirred and combines two aromatic spirits for a punchy digestive.
Dom Benedictine herbal liqueur + Fernet Branca + Melbourne Gin Company gin
Amongst the most famous and recognisable tangos of all time, La Cumparsita is a tango that was written in the early 1900’s. The title translates as “the little parade”. A twist on the Espresso Martini that goes perfectly with dessert and will have you craving another before you even reach the bottom of the glass.
Sailor Jerry’s Spiced Rum + Dulce de Leche + Espresso + Vanilla Liqueur + Chocolate dusting
With a name like ‘El Toro’ (meaning “The Bull”) you’d expect a heavy drink. This is an exceptional after dinner digestive. Based on the boozy classic, the Sazerac, ‘El Toro’ is traditional, but unique, using Fernet in a clever and completely different way.
Appleton Estate Jamaican Rum 12 yr + Fernet Branca + Green Fairy Absinthe + Fee Brothers Chocolate Bitters.
14 Meyers Pl, Melbourne
Open 7 days 12-11pm
“Life’s just a cocktail party – on the street.”
― Mick Jagger