Melbourne is famous for its laneway bar culture and speakeasy-style bars, but there are some that are just a bit more hidden than the average. Whether it’s access through a bookshelf, a takeaway pizza joint or a fridge, Lisa Holmen rounds up the best bars to get lost in this winter.
Entry through a coolroom? That’s as cool as it gets in Melbourne’s bar scene on Chapel Street. Enter Jungle Boy through the faux fridge at sub sandwich joint Boston Sub, and you’ll soon find a bar full of tropical greenery and taxidermy. Get your drinking boots on and sip on modern takes on classics like the Hemingway Spritz or a lychee and rose-infused daiquiri. Don’t miss the pulled pork sub and the Jabba The Hut poutine from the fast food joint out the front. Get there early if you can – the only downside is limited seating.
96 Chapel Street, Windsor 3181 jboy.com.au
The Everleigh Fitzroy
It may be one of Melbourne’s worst kept secrets, but there’s no denying it’s one of our favourites. Located on Gertrude Street just above Belles Hot Chicken, this speakeasy-style bar is the place to come for epic cocktails. It’s a beautiful venue, full of “olde-worlde” charm, cosy leather booths and candlelight. Perch at the epic long marble bar and sip on a classic cocktail from the golden era like a sazerac or an old-fashioned. Or you can leave it up to the experts: whisper your poison of choice to the bartender, and they will create your perfect drop. Ice is cut to order, fruit is freshly squeezed… it doesn’t get much better than this. It’s no wonder why this is consistently ranked as one of the best bars in the world.
It may just look like a hole-in-the-wall pizza shop, but there’s more to Pizza Pizza Pizza than meets the eye. Ask nicely to see the ‘secret menu’, and a hidden world will be revealed behind a black curtain. This dimly lit cocktail bar of no name specialises in retro-inspired cocktails like the Rusty Nail, Pina Colada and Alabama Slammer to keep you going till the wee hours of the morning. It’s the kind of place you could come by yourself and feel completely at home, thanks to some of the friendliest bartenders in town and a pretty funky sound track. Don’t leave home without getting a slice or two of the New York-style pizza.
Hidden upstairs from Captain Melville’s (which occupies Melbourne’s oldest pub) is another one of Melbourne’s best secret bars, mysteriously concealed behind a bookshelf. Loch and Key is cosily furnished with private booths and plenty of wood, which gives it a cabin-in-the-woods kind of feel. A definite highlight is the spacious veranda, which is the perfect spot to down a few bevvies and ogle at the birds eye views over the city. As for food, the bar keeps it pretty simple with gourmet toasties and antipasto-style plates.
It may be one of Melbourne’s smallest bars, but what it doesn’t have in size it sure makes up for in charm. The laneway bar is the brainchild of Matt Bax, the genius behind the Tippling Club in Singapore and Gamsei in Munich. Located down a laneway off Little Street, the bar is standing room only, with room for just ten patrons, so it can be tough to nab a space.
Paying homage to the golden age of drinking and Bax’s favourite Venetian Bar, Harry’s Bars, the American Bar is the place to come for seriously good classic cocktails, which rotate with the seasons. Our favourite is the namesake Americano with Italian bitters, house-infused vermouth, citrus and soda.
Just make sure you don’t take photos; you may not be invited back. Look for the blue TABBACHI sign at the end of the laneway.
With no signage to give it away, this prohibition-style speakeasy on Malthouse Lane is definitely one of the best in Melbourne. Look out for a large wooden door under the solitary lantern for entry into this jazz-infused drinking den. The extensive cocktail list is inspired by a range of old traditional crafts, and traces the history of cocktails through past decades. A must-try is the Espresso Zabaione – a fancy espresso cocktail of sorts, layered with a saffron and vanilla mousse and super-chilled with liquid nitrogen.
Whisky aficionados will love the range on offer, with a choice of hundreds of single malts from the lowlands to the highlands. If you’re hungry, there’s also a sumptuous five-course meal to feast on, paired with cocktails designed by Eu De Vie’s award-winning bartenders.
Experience the juxtaposition of East and West Berlin at Berlin Bar on Corrs Lane. When you see Fad Gallery, head up the stairwell and ring the mysterious doorbell. If you’re lucky and survive the ‘peep hole’ test you will be whisked upstairs, where a bar split into East and West Berlin will be revealed. On the West side, it’s all about opulence with sophisticated banquettes and crystal curtains; while beyond the wall on the East, the room is furnished with crates and steel bunk beds. Try the ‘Waldmeister’ – a delicious concoction of pear-infused Cognac mixed with Lillet Blanc and a plum reduction, topped up with French sparkling and garnished with a wild berry foam. Sweet tooths will love the ‘Berliner’ – inspired by the famous Berliner Pfannkuchen doughnut.
At the top end of Flinders Lane, Japanese-inspired bar and restaurant, Hihou sits behind a black unmarked door. All you have to do is press the buzzer and you will be ushered in by the door staff. Inside it’s elegant, sophisticated and oh-so-sexy. The best seats in the house are the window seats overlooking Spring Street and the Treasury Gardens. Indulge in Japanese liquor, beer and of course, plum wine and sake. Cocktails are given a Japanese twist, like the Negro-kan – a twist on the classic Negroni; and the popular Hihoutini – a beautiful concoction of sake, gin and elderflower. After a couple, you could trick your mind into thinking you are in the streets of Tokyo. Hihou also doubles as a restaurant if you’re looking to stay for dinner, where the food ranges from bar snacks to more substantial mains.
This former abandoned warehouse in Footscray has been restored to its former glory thanks to the addition of Back Alley Sally’s and pizza joint Slice Girls West. Here it’s all about local beers like Footscray Ale, Two Birds and Sunshine Lager. Still retaining its warehouse feel, the bar is fitted with industrial lights, recycled furniture and astro turf. It’s the perfect spot to drink west side. Hungry? Pick up some slices of pizza and nachos from Slice Girls West downstairs. Enter via the back alley near Footscray Station.