Melbourne finally gets the dive bar it deserves in Heartbreaker, a party-hard saloon on the edge of Chinatown
Anyone who has spent any serious time drinking in the United States will return to Melbourne lamenting our lack of down-and-dirty dive bars. You know the type: where the characters are questionable, the jukebox belts out ballads from the past 50 years, and blackout blinds blur the lines between mid-afternoon and the middle of the night. The kind of establishment where no one looks askance if you order a beer with a whisky chaser during office hours. Well, Melbourne booze hounds, you are in for a treat with the arrival of Heartbreaker, our pick for Best Party Bar at the 2016 Bar Awards.
Michael Madrusan of refined Fitzroy cocktail lounge The Everleigh is the man behind this louche CBD retreat, and the two operations couldn't be more different. Here, above a clutch of black leather booths, the word Heartbreaker is writ large in red neon, imbuing the room with a seedy, bordello-like ruby glow. There's the wood-panelled poolroom lined with black-and-white prints, a jukebox pumping out rock’n’roll hits from 1969 to 1980, and a window selling takeaway liquor until 11pm.
Not that you'll want to leave at such a civilised hour. Crafted with Melbourne's hospitality crowd in mind, this dimly lit, party-ready bar gets into full swing once everyone else knocks off work. (Be warned: the black-painted windows facing Russell and Lonsdale Streets will wreak havoc with your sense of time anyway.)
As with the best dive bars, Heartbreaker’s drinks formula is simple, with craft beers from Australia and the States the main drawcards. Prop yourself on a stool and order an American pint (16oz) of Edge Cereal Killer Red Larger, Dainton IPA or the crisp Golden Axe Cider, a shot of tequila or smoky mezcal, or a whisky on the rocks. The bar staff, led by affable manager Rob Wilkie, will whittle your block of gin-clear Navy Strength Ice so it sits snugly inside your tumbler, but don't go asking for any fruit-flocked cocktails.
Instead, four pre-mixed drinks come courtesy of the Everleigh, hand-bottled by Madrusan and business partner Sebastian Reaburn (who founded city cocktail den 1806). There's a finely balanced Negroni, a dry Martini, a smooth Manhattan and an Old Fashioned that promises just the right amount of punch. Some will love this pared-back, quick-smart approach – others will have to look elsewhere for their espresso Martinis.
Melbourne, this is the bar you've been waiting for.
234 Russell St
|Opening hours:||Mon-Sat 5pm-3am; Sun 5-11pm. Bottle shop: daily, 5-11pm.|
Average User Rating
3.5 / 5
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- 1 star:1
Great bar. Awesome drinks. Great atmosphere. The only negative is that they tend to leave the seating along the bar even after it gets busy which makes it hard to get a drink. Albeit the drink is worth the wait!
Best jukebox in Melbourne (a crown the Exford had a stranglehold on for a while). Like that they've got beers that no-one else are churning out. Bar staff are up for a chat and friendly. Little bit pricey, but it does the job. Have and will continue to come back!
Decided to check this out tonight, not returning. Over eager busboy took my partner's beer before finished & when he returned we pointed out (with a smile) that it wasn't finished. No apology from said precious busboy, but he aggressively told us it was finished. Precious returned, slammed a half pint down & whined like an infant "since you're f$#>ing crying about it." Clearly precious can't cope with his very moderate workload at @8pm, to abuse customers for wanting to drink their entire drinks