Taste of Cuba at new Melbourne rum bar


Taste of Cuba at new Melbourne rum bar
Rum on the menu at Los Barbudos.

Melbourne’s newest rum bar Los Barbudos has taken up residence on Smith Street in Fitzroy, bringing with it the atmosphere of Cuba’s golden age.

“About six months ago we decided to try and extend the Thank you, Come again empire and acquired this new little bar,” Tom Ambroz, co-owner and manager, says.

The team behind the idea for this Cuban-themed bar is Tom Rattigan, Lachlan McAllister, Reza Bolouri  and Tom Ambroz of the Thank You, Come Again team.

The bar draws its name from the “barbudos” or the ‘bearded ones’ of Fidel Castro’s guerrilla army who were invited to attend a Havana Sugar Kings baseball game five days after Castro’s seized power of Cuba.

“I kind of always was fascinated with the Caribbean and rum, so I jumped on board with it, and we headed to Cuba,” Ambroz said.

The team spent a couple of weeks in Cuba gathering some necessary research, which included visits to various bars while enjoying a variety of cocktails, to make the venue as authentic as possible.

“What we really wanted to do with this place as much as we could was to recreate the authenticity of Cuba in Melbourne,” Ambroz said.

The venue’s plethora of cocktails focuses on a long list of classic, Cuban drinks.

“Around Melbourne you can find mojitos and daiquiris, but everyone makes them a different way depending on what they think is right,” Ambroz said. “We just wanted to go [Cuba] and see what they do and how they make them in there.”

Though food isn't available at the bar, from next month patrons will be able to satisfy their appetites at “El Paladar”, a new Cuban street-food inspired truck.

The truck, run by brothers Mick and Will Balleau of Dr Juicy Jay’s Crab Shack and Chingon Cantina y Taqueira, will be its own separate entity but operate from the bar’s rear warehouse.  Patrons can purchase food from the truck and eat it at the venue.

Ambroz was previously at Mr Wow’s Emporium, located next to Los Barbudos, and said he came to know the Balleau brothers from the food truck they were there doing at the time.

“We just all really got along. We like what they do, and they seem to have fun doing it,” Ambroz says. “When we heard they were doing another truck, we just jumped right on it.”

The Los Barbudos team pitched the idea of a Cuban-themed food truck to the Balleau brothers, who in turned seemed really keen, Ambroz said.

“It seems like a new thing. Everyone seems to be doing Spanish and Mexican, but no one is really doing Cuban food over here,” Ambroz said.

Created by head chef Mitchell Townrow, the menu features items like fried plantains and black beans with cream and other dishes like Caribbean chicken wings, empanadas and traditional Cuban sandwiches.
Los Barbudos has so far been well received, Ambroz said.

“We are trying to do the same thing here that we have always done at the bars in the past, which is really try to make things fun and different, and to just be friendly to everyone that comes in,” Ambroz said. “We wanted to create a vibrant atmosphere while still giving people quality drinks and quality service."


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