Josie Bones

This bar profile featured in the April issue of Bartender magazine.

By Simon McGoram

98 Smith Street, Collingwood, Melbourne

03 9417 1878


It’s a bold move to open a drinking and dining establishment that gives pride of place to beer instead of wine, but that’s exactly what Masterchef stars Chris Badenoch and Julia Jenkins have achieved. Josie Bones, which opened in December 2010, is a haven of fine brews and nose-to-tail eating. The joint offers beer lovers a way to enjoy high-end ales outside of a pub environment paired to some of the best beer drinking grub any gastronome could ask for.

You may be surprised that Badenoch, who already had a following for his intelligent cooking philosophy which makes use offal and neglected cuts and who is known amongst craft beer advocates for his site Beer Masons, hadn’t open a venue earlier. Well, Badenoch had good reason for the delay – he was finishing off his book The Entire Beast which was released in October last year. At any rate, the wait is now over and according to Badenoch it was a remarkably fast build once underway.

“We found the space in July,” explains Badenoch, “got the keys at the beginning of August and were finished in the first week of December. It felt like forever to us, but compared to most people’s experiences, it was a breeze.”

It wasn’t all plain sailing aboard the good ship Josie Bones however. “Trying to keep to a deadline and a budget were major challenges for us,” explains Jenkins, “we always wanted more, more, more and usually couldn’t get it in time or afford it… The major physical challenges were the building itself – there were quite a few issues with the age and quite a lot more of the existing elements had to be replaced than we originally thought. Stripping the plasterboard off the walls and getting them back to brick was a massive pain too – this whole bit was painstakingly done over the course of a month by Chris and our bar manager Matt.”

The end result though has all been worth it. Entering Josie Bones via wooden doors affixed with bronze-cast pigs trotter door handles you’re transported into a moody yet light filled space. A long, wide recycled ironbark bar runs down the left side of the room and is repeated by bar-height tabletops and a large communal table down the back.

“The wood is textural and beautiful and gives a really warm feeling to the place,” says Jenkins “All the seating is bar height on stools, except for the large table down the back, over which hangs a modern black rubber chandelier.”

The bar and tables, warmly lit by hand-made ceramic lightshades, designed to echo the curve of the top of traditional Belgian beer bottles are an ode to venue’s drink offering as to is the large photo print of a ‘nude’ rabbit which dominates the bar. The image is a still from Badenoch’s cookbook which Jenkins tells us “has stirred up a little controversy, but we think it is just a really beautiful picture.”

“We believe that beer has just as much history, character, flavour and versatility as wine and we want to show people that beer is not just something to be drunk at the pub.” Julia Jenkins

Josie Bones’ inspired design was a collaboration between Badenoch and Jenkins, architects NeoMetro and designers Zwei Interiors Architecture. “Jeff Provan [NeoMetro] is a friend and a fantastic designer with a real eye for aesthetics so was a real asset to the design process,” comments Badenoch. “Zwei have designed quite a few cafes and have a real warm, modern feel to their interiors – they bought a wealth of invaluable hospitality design experience to the table.”

Design aside the real feature of this venue is its impressive food and drink offering. “We have a list of over 200 bottled beers and eight taps – four local, four international – that rotate often,” Badenoch explains. “The beers are a mix of interesting international offerings and excellent local craft beers.” The list carries no mainstream fillers – in fact so serious are the Josie Bones crew about their beer offering that they’ve hired James Greenfield as their beer guy in lieu of a sommelier. Badenoch informs us that Greenfield puts together the list, the draught list, the flights, and does all the ordering and is also responsible for fortnightly training for all the staff to make sure that everyone is able to hold a real beer conversation with anyone that comes in the door.

“He can tell you pretty much everything about any beer on our list – he knows them all and loves them like adopted children,” Badenoch tells us. “He’s an amazing asset to our team and to the restaurant as his enthusiasm about beer is easily caught by the rest of the staff and the customers.

It addition to their already extensive beer offering, Josie Bones boasts a beer cellar with rarer offerings like the Unibroue range, BrewDog’s crazily high alcohol Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Sink the Bizmark, and one off collaborations between interesting breweries like Mikkeler and BrewDog’s I Hardcore You.

There’s a short and sweet wine and spirits list and cocktails aren’t really part of the offering though Badenoch tells us that his bar manger Matt Heron will whip up a Negroni or Martini if you are in need. There’s talk of beer cocktails making their way onto the list too and Badenoch admits there has already been the odd experiment in mixing Framboise with chocolate porter.

Josie Bones food offering, as we’ve mentioned, is focussed on a seasonal, nose-to-tail philosophy. The share plates menu is executed by Chef Rob Taylor, previously of The Courthouse and Hotel Max. “[Taylor] has been able to take our vision for the food and streamline it and generally just make it better,” Jenkins informs us. “He’s incredibly talented, enthusiastic, excited, and tireless.”

Top picks from the menu include the ‘crackling of the day’ which can be made from pork, duck, chicken, salmon or anything else from land or sea. Badenoch says “it’s salty, crunchy and more-ish, just what you want to snack on when drinking a beer.”

Other favourites include the likes of the ‘rolled pigs head with sauce grimbich and crackling’, the ‘crispy school prawns with lemon aioli and lime’ and the ever so cute miniature Scotch eggs with anchoïade.

“Our charcuterie plate is sliced at the bar so as soon as one person orders one and the customers get to see the meat being sliced and the all of the smallgoods, a round of orders for charcuterie always comes in,” adds Badenoch.

As always Bartender must know the venue’s recipe to success. Jenkins replies: “Josie Bones is unique in that it’s really the only restaurant in the country that treats beer the same way that others treat wine. We believe that beer has just as much history, character, flavour and versatility as wine and we want to show people that beer is not just something to be drunk at the pub, or at the end of long days work. Beer ought to be shown respect, which is what we’re doing. The beer scene and beer drinking culture is really beginning to change in Australia and people are responding really well to this concept.”

Chris’ and Julia’s Top Beer Picks

Chris: Petrus -“I’m completely addicted to Lambic beers, they are an unusual and unique style of beer, fermented with wild yeasts, which in conjunction with barrel aging gives the beer such a unique character. It’s beer but not as we know it.”

Julia: Kinshachi Red Miso Ale – “It’s savoury and malty, a little bit funky from the red miso, but I just absolutely love it.”

Chris: Nogne O #500 IPA – “It’s an IPA from Norway and the brewery is producing some of the most interesting beers in the world at the moment. This is such an amazing floral IPA – it’s a standout in the category for me. We have it on tap at the moment but something tells me it won’t last long.”

Julia: 3 Boys Wheat – “Super spicy with loads of coriander and citrus, it’s an amazingly ballsy wheat beer and great with food.”

Chris: BrewDog Smokehead – “It’s like a cigar, a stout and a good whisky all rolled into one glass – what more could you want.”

Julia: BrewDog Tokyo – “I can’t not list this one given the amount of this very strong Imperial Stout we go through in the kitchen.”

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