Melbourne’s best bars are hidden down laneways and up stairs but they couldn’t hide from us.
Melbourne loves playing hard to get, particularly when it comes to its bar scene. It’s all tucked-away laneway locations and a maddening lack of signage. Here are 10 of the best – don’t forget your GPS.
Tucked down little-known Presgrave Place and with the dimensions of a broom cupboard (their words), Bar Americano pays homage to the golden age of American bars in Europe. The cocktails are classic and the space is standing room only.
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Eau De Vie
It’s got a speakeasy vibe without the clichés; an elegant, old-world bar secreted (sans signage) down Malthouse Lane with table service and cocktails created with such attention to detail that even the ice is artisanal. Order a Smoky Rob Roy – whiskey, cigar-infused rum, sweet vermouth and orange bitters, complete with a cloud of smoke – and see how the professionals do it.
True to its name, this tiny South Melbourne bar has just enough room to swing a cat but it punches above its weight when it comes to the wine program (global, interesting, new wave and old) and bar snacks, including addictive, salty wafers of fried tendon and black pudding Scotch eggs.
An oldie (it just celebrated its 10th birthday) but a goodie, this bar is Iberia by way of Little Collins Street. It’s decorated with a wild array of op-shop tchotchkes and has some of the best bar food in town (the kingfish “pancetta” and lemon oil is a classic) backed by a zippy European wine selection. They’ve just added a bar upstairs to cope with the overflow.
Pizza Pizza Pizza
Pizza by the slice in a small takeaway shop on Meyers Place is just a tasty, cheese-laden front for the secret bar out back. The nondescript, black-curtained door is a portal to a cosy drinking den with booths, DJs and an excellent cocktail list.
New Gold Mountain
Two levels of Chinoiserie-accented opulence above Liverpool Street, New Gold Mountain is the city’s most intimate covert bar where couples canoodle over creative cocktails such as the Give Peas a Chance (snow pea-infused vodka, saké, lemon, salt and pepper).
It’s one of the original Melbourne laneway bars (opened in 1994), with a design by Six Degrees architects that hasn’t become dated. At this watering hole preferred by the younger political set from nearby Parliament House, the drinks menu (wine, beer, cider, basic cocktails) is simple but devastatingly effective.
Deep in the heart of Chinatown, in an alley off a laneway, Union Electric will reward those who persevere in their search for its rusty lightning bolt sign. Creative cocktails, some with a subtropical theme (the Lola: coconut cream, ginger, curacao, gin), mix well with finger food ordered from the yum cha den next door.
Oh, the stories Cherry Bar could tell… The rock ’n’ roll venue, tucked down AC/DC Lane, certainly doesn’t have any frills but it backs its cred with live music, a great atmosphere and plenty of edge. Drink beer if you want to fit in.
Kirk’s Wine Bar
Perched on the corner of Little Bourke Street, Kirk’s Wine Bar has rescued Hardware Lane from its tourist trap doldrums. It has a savvy wine list and food by Ian Curley that hits all the right Euro-leaning notes. Consider it the perfect combination for the after-work city crowd.
Image: Tess Kelly
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