We often have interstate guests. Like often enough that I feel we should just go the full monty and list our spare bedroom on Airbnb. But the best thing about having visitors taking over your apartment and not being able to walk around in your underwear is having an opportunity to show off Melbourne as if it’s a shiny new Porsche Cayenne.
In my world, most of this said showing off involves touring the best places to drink beverages of the alcoholic sort – a test that I have studiously done my homework for.
Here’s nine of the best bars in Melbourne – the quirky, the cool and the plain weird – all guaranteed to impress your vodka-slurping crew.
(And I’ve ordered them in the most logical of walking orders – you can thank me later – that’s if you’re feeling brave and want to try all nine… )
1. The Lui Bar
The Lui Bar is often my trump card. This fancy, with a capital f, cocktail lounge bar at the top of the Rialto Towers has 360-degree views of the twinkling Melbourne skyline that you’d sell your first-born for. The drinks aren’t bad either. It’s on par with similar experiences in Singapore, Paris and London, yet with a classy Australiana-feel instead, and guaranteed to impress the toughest of critics. However, the price tags mean you’re only likely to stay for one, which is fine because I’ve conveniently got another eight bar options up my sleeve.
The Lui Bar | Level 55, Rialto Towers, 525 Collins Street, Melbourne, Victoria
Phone: (03) 9691 3888
2. Abory Bar and Eatery
Right next door to the rumblings of Flinders Street Station, this entirely-outdoors riverside bar gives you an up-close and very personal view of Melbourne, the Yarra River and Platform 13. Commandeering the old Sandridge Line platform, which was once used to ferry about passengers during the Gold Rush era but long left in desolate condition, has brought life to a pocket of Melbourne that most people try to move through as quickly as if they were a bullet train
Stretching the length of the train station, this incredibly long and skinny bar that’s umbrellered by a canopy of plane trees is a good pre-drinks or snack spot that’s bound to impress. Unless it’s single-digit weather, then it’s bound to freeze your nose off.
Abory Bar and Eatery | Flinders Walk, Melbourne, Victoria
Phone: (03) 8648 7644
3. Eau de Vie
Steering your wine squad down a deserted laneway that has little more than a dumpster and if you’re lucky someone vomiting in their shoes does bring some questioning looks. And then the looks border on accusatory when you open an unmarked door. But it’s all happy faces once inside this true speakeasy-style bar that has opulence dripping from its elbows, some of the best smoking cocktails you’ll have in your life, tonnes of elegantly-dressed waiters and lots of jazz music to transport you back to an era of prohibition.
Don’t let the obscure entrance fool you. It’s a popular one, so be prepared to wait for a table, or do what I do and send the husband in advance.
Eau de Vie | 1 Malthouse Lane, Melbourne, Victoria
Phone: 0412 825 441
4. Gin Palace
Tucked off another Melbourne laneway, hidden away in a basement, here you’ll find a gaggle of gin lovers being swallowed up by velveteen couches, embracing the juniper berry-flavoured liquid, dim lighting and 19th century decadence that this palace of gin is famed for among Melburnians.
As you’d expect, there is ample gin and tonic combos, gin cocktails, gin taster paddles and gin-flavoured fairy floss. All of which is true except for the gin-flavoured fairy floss part. Plus there are options for the gin haters among us (yep, my hand is up).
Gin Palace | 10 Russell Place, Melbourne, Victoria
Phone: (03) 9654 0533
5. Cookie and Rooftop Bar
A Melbourne stalwart, Curtin House is six levels of food, booze and buzz. Stop at level one for a bite of Thai or beverage at Cookie before transcending the marble stairs to the Rooftop Bar, watching on as Melbourne shows off again with its full wattage cityness on full display. This is a great option for the lazy in all of us, as it’s Melbourne bottled up in a big Art Nouveau building.
Cookie | Level one, 252 Swanson Street, Melbourne, Victoria
Phone: (03) 9663 7660
Rooftop Bar | Level six, 252 Swanson Street, Melbourne, Victoria
Phone: (03) 9654 5394
6. Boilermaker House
Run by the same mixologists behind Eau de Vie, the premise of prohibition continues to this hidden bar off Lonsdale Street that’s an ode to the whiskey and beer cocktail, boilermaker – one shot whiskey, one pint beer. As the name suggests, Boilermaker House is an Aladdin’s cave of whiskey. Throw in a sprinkling of craft beer, meats and cheeses, plus lots of warming wooden feels and you have yourself a cosy drinking den.
Boilermaker House | 209 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, Victoria
7. Berlin Bar
Another bar that’s a mission to find; head down a laneway, climb the stairs, ring the bell when you get to a locked door and wait to discover which side of the bar you’ll be able to get a seat in. Divided by the Berlin Wall, this cocktail bar is split into two zones: the sophisticated West Berlin, with its formal luxurious lounge seating, crystal curtains and low lighting; or gritty East Berlin, with its communal tables, disused grenade crates for seating and ‘80s video games. Regardless of which side of the wall you sit the cocktails are on point – do yourself a favour and try the Luftwaffe Sour. This is a guaranteed go-to if you have interstate guests, or just any staunch capitalists or communists in your party.
Berlin Bar | 16 Corrs Lane, Melbourne, Victoria
8. The Croft Institute
Now that you’re au fait with wondering down poorly-lit laneways, some back alley exploration in Chinatown will lead you to this mad scientist’s dimly-lit laboratory that’s found in a laneway, off a laneway. While the drinks here taste like they’ve come out of a Cottees bottle, the novelty of drinking them perched on science stools, gathered around science benches will make up for it. And forget the Riedel, drinks are served in beakers, test tubes and syringes. Plus, you can dance off all that excess sugar upstairs in the abandoned gymnasium, where resident DJs are gaming up a mean dance floor.
The Croft Institute | 21 Croft Alley, Melbourne, Victoria
Phone: (03) 9671 4399
9. Madame Brussels
Head to the third floor of this dangerously-dowdy office building and you’ll feel like you’ve jumped down the rabbit hole, walking out into an outlandish garden party. Picture waiters wearing preppy polos, tennis socks and shorts that are definitely on the side of short, all serving pimms and trays of sandwiches, cupcakes, scones and sausage rolls (of course!). The walls of this indoor/outdoor rooftop bar are pink, the grass is faux and the chairs are covered in what could be a ‘50s bedspread.
This old dear – named after the 19th century Melbourne brothel owner that went by the pseudonym of Madame Brussels – is an absolute delight in summer, promising a flirty, fun and frivolous time.
Madame Brussels | Level 3, 59 Bourke Street, Melbourne, Victoria
Phone: (03) 9662 2775