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  • Bars
  • Melbourne
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. Curious Bar W Hotel Melbourne
    Photograph: Supplied
  2. Curious bar W Hotel Melbourne
    Photograph: Patrick Stevenson/Supplied
  3. Curious bar W Hotel Melbourne
    Photograph: Supplied

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Keen to find this hidden bar? You’ve got to find the wall of clocks first

August 10 2023 update: Which side of the city's famous waterway is better: northside or southside? It's a debate many Melburnians have had before and so it got the mixologists thinking... wouldn't it be better to settle this debate over a drink? The current cocktail menu pits the two against each other with a new range of cocktails inspired by Melbourne's proudest 'hoods. Whether it's the 'Fitzroy Garage Party' with butter fat-washed brandy and chocolate bitters or the 'Too Right it's Toorak' with gin, mead, sparkling wine and lavender that catches your fancy, there's no dispute on one thing: the Curious bar's creativity truly reigns supreme.

It’s not very common (at least not in Melbourne) for a hotel bar to pop off but that’s exactly what happened to Curious, which opened at the W Melbourne in 2021.

Joining Adam D’Sylva’s Italian-leaning Lollo and Japanese fine diner Warabi, the subterranean
cocktail lounge is in good company, but it’s managed to pull a much younger audience than its
neighours. All signs point to the music program as the primary culprit. On Wednesday through Saturday nights the space hosts a rotating lineup of DJs, both established and on the up, and the place packs out accordingly.

Earlier in the evening, however, there’s a calmer sensibility one would expect from a venue of
this nature – hotel patrons grazing on cheese boards, office workers popping in for a knock-off. From our perspective, it’s in these quieter hours you can truly appreciate the bar’s best qualities – namely the cocktails, which are far more serious than their classifications (coffee, fashion, art) suggest.

If you think the first category’s limited to Espresso Martinis, think again. Like a spiced-up Irish
coffee, the South of the Border is served hot with a shot of mezcal and notes of hazelnut and
chestnut, plus whipped cream. And the Counter-Coffee-Culture (the most expensive drink on
the menu at $30) is a spin on a Manhattan using Cherry and Coffee Infused Woodford Reserve

There are plenty of light and fruity options too, all executed just as well even if their themed
garnishes are a bit on the nose. The Satine, a delicious blend of rum, lemon, rhubarb and
eucalyptus, is topped with a round of cartoon lip-printed rice paper – but if you can look past
that, there’s substance hiding beneath the surface.

The same can’t be said for the food, which mostly revolves around classic drinking fare in bite-
sized serves – think Wagyu sliders served with potato crisps and petite miso eggplant “tacos” in what appears to be fried wonton wrappers. Is it odd? Yes. Does it work? Not really, but it’ll tide you over when the drinks go to your head.

The food’s not meant to be the main event, though, and even the drinks run a close second.
With its intricately thatched wood ceiling that stretches over the length of the venue and the
Gillie and Marc statues that scatter the room, the design is Curious’s greatest feature of all. Even if the cocktails were terrible (which they’re far from), it’d be worth the $25 just to sit and soak up the surrounds until the DJ sets begin.

Written by
Quincy Malesovas


408 Flinders Lane
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