Souk splits to embrace the new Handsome Bar


After lighting up the end of Melbourne’s Bligh Place since 2017, Souk has reopened its neon doors following a major revamp. The popular venue has consolidated the Middle-Eastern inspired restaurant to the upstairs and rear area of its existing location, making way for Handsome Bar – set to officially open at the front and downstairs after renovations are revealed in mid-August.

Owner Ergun Elmas leads a creative team of hospitality rock stars, including General Manager Alla Payne (ex-Lucy Liu), 2IC Stevie Hatz (ex- ST ALi) and London-based designer and photographer Tré Koch. Collectively, the team bring years of collaboration and industry experience together for Souk’s rebranding and the genesis of Handsome Bar – a passion project pioneered by Payne and Hatz with creative input from Tré Koch on the design.

“The industry is changing and constantly raising the bar,” says Elmas. “With new-look Souk, we want to add more theatre, drama and energy to create the exciting hustle and bustle of a market place in Arabia.”

Both levels of the split venue carry their own distinctly designed interiors for lovers of high-quality food and drink, adding a new layer and texture to Melbourne’s city laneway nightlife.

Souk (pictured above) incorporates the clever use of glass and recycled crystal so that neon lighting diffuses and gradually saturates the venue. Entering from the end of a grungy laneway, diners will be transported to a vibrant Arabic eatery that hums.

Souk’s new menu uses modern techniques while remaining true to flavours of the Ottoman Empire. Dishes are given a contemporary update including truffled cheese borek, fried brussel sprouts in sticky pomegranate molasses, Turkish Manti in garlic sour cream, paprika sauce, biber chilli and sumac and more.

“It’s a new stage for us,” says Elmas. “We wanted to change, to add a different legacy for Souk together with our new project Handsome Bar.”

Handsome Bar can be entered through a separate door – a luxe drinking spot that showcases playful and nostalgic cocktails to be enjoyed and offers up local and French imported wines. Uniquely, the compact dining menu of eight dishes is exclusively plant-based, including such items as ‘bone marrow’ toast with parsley, truffled parfait with Pedro Jiminez jelly, as well as nostalgic inclusions like Jatz and French onion dip with harissa oil and homemade ‘sausage’ rolls with Port Melbourne’s own Rosella t-sauce – lending itself well to local clientele.

“We have created two venues we feel Melbourne was missing,” says Payne. “Not only is the menu and cocktail list for Handsome completely plant-based, we’ve also worked to make sure it tastes good. The time of dining shouldn’t be dependent on the quality available late at night.”

Handsome Bar injects a sense of understated luxury with its rich textures and metallic accents, yet the experience will be entirely approachable. Perfect for pre or post drinks, the late-night venue will be where everyone and everything is Handsome.

Souk Melbourne
13 Bligh Place, Melbourne – level one Tuesday to Saturday: 5PM until late Fridays: 4PM until late

Handsome Bar
13 Bligh Place, Melbourne – ground level Tuesday to Thursday: 4PM until late Friday and Saturday: 2PM until late