Melbourne's Little Italy is better known for pasta than piss-ups, but that doesn't mean Carlton skimps in the small bar stakes. Below, we've rounded up some of our favourite bars in Lygon Street and surrounds (with a few food stops thrown in for good measure). If you're in the area, be sure to check out our guides to Carlton's best shopping and Lygon Street's best restaurants too.
The best bars in Carlton
Nothing that people loved about this historic Carlton pub, which was established in 1854, has been disturbed, and the new features seem like they’ve always been there. Forget the teeth-meltingly acidic sauv blancs that used to pass as a house pour. Here, you can get a grassy yellow Western Australian gewurtz riesling that is light, fresh and floral, or maybe an oaky chardonnay from Beechworth made with indigenous yeasts. This is a pub with wine bar sensibilities.
There’s a lot to like about Heartattack & Vine. It feels like this is the place that Lygon St, needed. The tiny shotgun venue manages to feel bright and open, with antique glass lights hanging from old metal window frames lending warmth and depth to the room. During the day it operates as a café, serving simple breakfasts, coffee, sandwiches and interesting options like a Spanish iced chocolate with hints of chili and orange for a spicy jaffa effect. And after dark they deliver in spades.
Gerald’s Bar has been on the tip of everyone’s tongue since it opened in the sleepy suburbs of Carlton North 11 years ago. They’ve kept the party going and the booze a-flowin’ all these years without bending to anyone’s will, which is what makes them the true Legends of the 2018 Time Out Bar Awards. Gerald’s is and always has been bursting with personality: convivial, boisterous, eccentric, but at the same time, utterly approachable with a flawless soundtrack and a poster of a young Michael Caine watching over you.
The Brandon Hotel looks unassuming. Enter the fairly generic front bar you’ll get a squinty assessment from the locals that says: “Y’all ain’t from round here.” Conquer these gatekeepers and your reward is a really great neighbourhood pub with a sweet bistro out the back.
The tiny, well-appointed bar is owned and operated by Leigh and Tom, a genial pair who’ve distilled their hard-earned understanding of what makes a great bar into one small but perfectly formed vessel boasting an extensive collection of whiskies, which includes several from now-closed distilleries. They also happen to have one of the finest mushroom croquettas in town.