Back when Melbourne was just rolling grassland, the Golden Sun Moth thrived amongst unspoiled native flora. Millenia later, when Luke Mutton wanted to open a natural-wine and craft-beer bar in Melbourne’s CBD, he named it as a tribute to this local moth, which is now critically endangered. A visit to the small but mighty Sun Moth Canteen & Bar is a reminder to tread lightly on the earth.
Luke is no newcomer to the hospitality scene, and his other projects have also paid homage to the local region. South Melbourne’s Dead Man Espresso tells the story of Canvastown, where early migrants pitched their tents, while Seddon’s Common Galaxia is named for the whitebait that the local Indigenous tribes fished for in the river.
The atmosphere of Sun Moth is anything but historic. It’s sleek and minimal: industrial fittings, hanging greenery and blonde timber pop against plenty of white space. The details are given precedence here – Luke’s other business, Sunkland Projects, collaborated with David Davenport of Illogical Study, and Life Space Journey’s Justin Lamont to custom-make the fittings and furniture.
In this space, Luke has been able to create his dream bar and canteen: relaxed and casual, with great music, good food, and of course, a killer drink selection. He brought on board Matt Falloon to man the open kitchen,which runs like clockwork, serving up the perfect culinary accompaniments to the range of drinks.
The menu showcases seasonal produce, changing regularly to make to most of the day’s produce. For lunch, warm up with the chicken and dash broth with dumplings, corn and spring onion, or opt for a stout-braised beef cheek sandwich with cheddar and greens. Dinner also brings delectably relaxed fare, such as braised eggplant with potatoes, flatbread and yoghurt; and fennel and chilli sausages paired with white beans, kale and mustard. If you’re only peckish, it’s hard to go past the tarragon crushed tatties, tallegio and crispy shallots, accompanied by a bowl of Mount Zero olives.
During the day, pair your meal with a coffee from Small Batch Roasters, or hot chocolate by M.rk, but the evening is where Sun Moth’s drink menu really sings. Luke had long been interested in natural wines, but it was Lou Chalmers,owner of North Melbourne wine bar, Clever Polly’s, who encouraged him to commit to an all-natural wine offering. You’ll find a rotating selection of well made natural wines on the menu each night, often locally produced with an ethos of minimal interference and preservation of the native yeasts. The staff know their stuff, and they’ll be happy to talk you through their favourite drops, from the elegant and refined to the weird and wacky.
Fans of hops and malt will also find plenty to enjoy, with a diverse range of craft beers on offer, with six rotating beers gracing the taps each week. You’ll find beautiful brews from the likes of Tasmania’s Two Metres Tall, and Melbourne’s own Boatrocker and La Sirene. With a takeaway application in the works, you’ll soon be able to take your favourite drops home with you.
Sun Moth’s emphasis on simplicity shines through in every element, from the minimal design and produce-focused menu to the all-natural wines. Nestled away in historic Niagara Lane, Sun Moth may tread lightly on the planet but it will certainly leave an impression on all who visit.