In Melbourne’s inner-city suburb of Carlton North, in a building rich with decades of hospitality history, neighbourhood wine bar Brico has opened the doors to a warm and welcoming space which showcases small producers.

Founded by four friends made up of two couples, Phil Bracey, Josh Begbie, Tegan Ella Hendel and Robyn Nethercote, Brico is inspired by Europe’s easy eating and drinking culture.

The four partners, who first met in London almost a decade ago, shared a vision to create a community space that is produce-driven and relaxed in its hospitality style, and spent the last year searching for the right venue for their first collective venture. 

Speaking to The Shout, Josh shared the philosophy behind Brico.

“We fell in love with a lot of the neighbourhood style bistro/wine bars in cities like Paris, Copenhagen and Tokyo, and now we have young families ourselves we thought something along those lines would provide a good work-life balance and complement the already great wine scene here in Melbourne.

“Phil and I both have pretty extensive wine and restaurant backgrounds both here, Sydney and London. Phil had iconic East London Venues P.Franco, Bright and Peg, while his wife Tegan, [working in] Art Direction and Design was responsible for the visual components.

“I worked around the corner at Brawn in London and have managed Australian restaurants and bars like Bar Liberty, Poly, Embla, Der Raum and MoVida. Robby managed a produce store alongside the restaurant Quality Chop House and most recently ran the restaurant inside the Lincoln Hotel.”

Photographer: Dominic Xavier

Having found their first home on the corner of Nicholson Street and Macpherson Street, in the former home of the famed Tansy’s, The Fives, and Little Andorra, the space was renovated by Josh and Phil under the guidance of bartender turned builder Dave Kerr.

“The building we’re in has a rich hospitality history, housing one of Melbourne’s most famous restaurants from the 1980’s, Tansy’s, along with other notorious venues over the years. Hopefully we can respect and continue the legacy,” added Josh.

“Visually for Brico, we wanted to utilise the sunshine that pours in through the daytime, painting the walls a neutral two tone contrasted by large pops of colour from a painting by our good Magnus Reid and posters from natural wine documenter Michel Tolmer.

“Our favourite shared travels were often inside bright spaces with a bottle of wine at lunchtime, and we wanted to focus on that here in Melbourne. We inherited a strange license that doesn’t start until 2pm, but as soon as it’s transferred back to midday starts we’ll be hosting many more lunches.”

Drinks-wise, Josh says the best cocktail lists are short and concise, leaving space for Brico to focus on a concise, rotating wine list showcasing exceptional wines from small local and international producers.

“[Our cocktails] are five rifts on well-known classics, a Highball, Spritz, Martini, Negroni and a brown rotating drink, which can be on the table consistently and quickly.

“Wine is really Phil and I’s forte. We’ve spent a lot of time in and around wineries and wanted to champion deserved producers who make flavoursome, good and honest wine that starts in the vineyard. Organic and biodynamic with little trickery in the winery, but not necessarily wild and wacky. These are from producers and importers that we know and trust, but also can be super proud to list.”

On the food front, Head Chef Simon-Ball Smith has put together a menu that champions local suppliers and produce, driven by season and European leaning in style.

“Simon Ball-Smith has been a good friend of ours for many years and he was given carte-blanche with the menu as we’ve eaten and drank with him on many occasions and he understands the role wine plays in helping elevate his food and vice versa due to his travels throughout Europe,” Josh added.

“Echoing the wine list, he’s passionate about great produce and provenance and a perfect fit alongside our front-of-house philosophy.”

Thinking about what lies ahead for Brico, Josh hopes the bar and restaurant will become a community space where visitors can come back time and time again, and feel that they are in a warm and inclusive environment.

“We just wanted to open a great little neighbourhood bistro to service Carlton North and our mates. There’s so many other great wine bars close by, such as Public Wine Shop, Geralds Bar and Neighbourhood Wine, that we hope we can complement and at the same time offer something a little different to this Carlton hub.

“We just want people to come and feel energised and welcomed. A restaurant for everyone, with a knowledgeable but relaxed service style that invites conversation and questions.”

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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