A love story by Hemingway

A love story by Hemingway
Rhonda Dredge

The war is over. Those who have lived through it are maimed and world weary.

Ex-soldier Jake Barnes goes travelling. It’s one town after another.

He arrives in Spain, meets a girl and has a few drinks.

He returns to a few favourite bars. The conversations are clipped, and he drinks too much.

There is nothing that remarkable about Jake’s story, just one of moving on, always with the same aim, of seeing the beautiful Brett Ashley somewhere, somehow.

Brett remains forever elusive, a gay creature flitting around Europe making the most of the 1920s.

But those moments Jake has spent dreaming and the snippets of conversation that never reveal too much are an antidote to his memory of war.

Glen Bagnara in East Melbourne is a fan of Hemingway. He loves the seductive prose, the lavish drinking and, most of all, the moving on.

He met his own partner Emma on a cruise. They were both working, he as a sommelier. She was running the day spa. They clicked and kept on cruising for the next couple of years as the romance blossomed.

Fast forward 30 years and Glen has opened a brasserie in Wellington St, East Melbourne. He’s called it Hemingway’s Wine Room in deference to his favourite author and of a way of life that blossomed between the wars a century ago.

“The times were opulent,” Glen said. “If you look up that period in history, the celebrity of the day, the journeyman, traveller and boozer was Hemingway.”

Glen approves and he opened his wine bar on March 20, 2020, unfortunately on the day the city went into lockdown, and he is still waiting for the roaring ‘20s to begin.

He might be talking to his accountant these days rather than a literary following, but Glen has put a lot of detail into his menu, bar list and decorative style to capture an era that may or may not re-emerge.

Hemingway didn’t go for his Christian name of Earnest and preferred to be known as Papa and this detail is reflected in the menu, as are other trademarks of the writer.

Glen doesn’t want to labour the point. His restaurant is not a theme park. People have their own take on Hemingway.

“They come here with an idea in mind,” he said. Some prefer A Farewell to Arms, others The Sun Also Rises. Glen likes The Old Man and the Sea.

He gets quite a few medicos in after a day at the nearby clinics. “In times of crisis people drink more,” Glen said. “You need an outlet.”

Patronage of the place has spread by word of mouth. For Valentine’s Day, he is recommending a Paul Roger champagne and, perhaps, a love story by Hemingway. •


Caption: Glen Bagnara at his Hemingway hideaway in Wellington St.

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