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Amici Bar: a fresh approach to ‘Gioie della tavola’ (the joys of the table)

Michelle Taylor 9 July 2019
Amici Bar

Amici is a stroll away from the last light rail stop in the city centre. Photos: Michelle Taylor.

‘Better than Sunday at Nonna’s! ’ one reviewer states boldly about Amici, Lala Hospitality Group’s latest initiative.

Amici’s look is modern: light and airy, every surface polished and shining pristinely. It does not conjure up any notion of Nonna’s kitchen so far.

Italian influences.

Pastries and coffee are available from 8 am.

Morning sunlight streams in, banishing the crisp winter chill.

Front and centre of the generous space stands a gleaming deli bench: fat sausages, cured meat and long strings of garlic hanging off hooks, Costco-sized rounds of cheese and massive slabs of cured meat stacked high in the fridge beneath.

The large deli counter.

Set into an impressive wall of wines, a takeaway fridge entices, fully stocked with fresh seasonal house-made meals, snacks, salads and desserts.

A takeaway fridge is set into the wall of wines.

Sales and marketing director, Jessica, competently jiggles her two-year-old on her lap as she talks to me. “Amici pairs wine and food with friends,” she says. “We want to bring people together around a table with great wine and flavoursome food.”

Jessica is one of the four owner-operators behind Lala Hospitality Group. While each Lala initiative offers a unique atmosphere and vibe, Amici is wine-focused.

Locally produced wines feature prominently. “The wine is the hero,” Jess emphasises, “and our food is simple, quick and tasty. People expect more these days. It’s not enough just to have a good drink anymore, they want an experience.”

“Amici means ‘friend’ in Italian,” adds digital marketing manager Brooke. She points up at the delicate olive leaf pattern overlaying the high -sloped ceiling. “See the olive leaves? It’s about extending the olive branch. It’s about relationships.”

‘Come for the flowing fountain, stay for the meat and cheeses’.

Dining at Amici can be interactive. Italy’s number 1 cocktail cascades from the Negroni fountain from 11 am daily.

Wine-Not-Wednesdays begin soon, providing a unique opportunity to do tastings with suppliers and brand ambassadors.

Amici’s passionate bartenders have played a key role in selecting the wines that stock Amici’s walls. After you choose your vino, they can help you to design the perfect charcuterie to enhance it.

When asked what meats and cheese she might pair with a sweet, dessert wine, today’s bartender Holly effortlessly rattles off a list of meats and cheese that both highlight and contrast the sweetness of the wine. “There needs to be a lifting point in there,” she says, “a cheese with sour notes, a gamey meat. You need fatty, flavoursome and something classic. And you’ll need a conversation piece.”

“Wine won’t destroy food, but the wrong food can destroy wine,” Holly explains.

She finalizes the hypothetical charcuterie board; slices of their bresaola – a juniper berry-cured beef – slices of aromatic garlic and fennel-infused salami finocchiona, and goat’s cheese for the sour notes.

Her own favourite pairing is a classic sauvignon blanc with ash goat’s cheese. “Both sit conveniently close to each other in the takeaway fridge,” she smiles.

Amici advocates responsible drinking and their menu offers a range of low and no ABV (alcohol by volume) cocktails so patrons can enjoy a guilt-free, social drink.

The team asserts that just like a good cocktail needs balance, so does a great mocktail. To demonstrate, Holly whips up a limonare, pouring in smoked tea, rectified grapefruit juice and San Pellegrino lemonata. That heady tang where sweet meets sour meets icy cold is made complete by the frosting of salt around the glass rim.

Holly in her element.

The folk at Amici won’t slave over a hot stove like Nonna might, but their emphasis of bringing people together over shared food and excellent wine encapsulates the quote on their wall “A tavola non si invecchia.” (‘Eating at the table you don’t get old’).

Amici, 59 Northbourne Avenue, Canberra City. Open from 8 am on weekdays. For function and catering enquiries, call on (02) 6179 8973.

Have you shared a table with friends at Amici?


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