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Jungle Boy
Photograph: Mark Lobo

The best hidden bars in Melbourne

Melbourne's secret bars and underground gems are worth seeking out – but shhhh don't tell anyone about these, OK?

By Time Out editors
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No one does hidden bars quite like Melbourne. We've got a bar located down a cramped laneway, one behind a fridge door, one behind a bookshelf and a closet of a bar that barely fits eight people. Consider this list a scavenger hunt of Melbourne's most interesting secret bars, and remember where they are for next time.

For more bars to hide away in, check out the best whisky bars. Or if vino is your go-to tipple, check out the best wine bars in Melbourne.

Hidden bars in Melbourne

1. Above Board

Bars Cocktail bars Collingwood

The bar is a command centre at the heart of this tiny room, with only a handful of seats facing Hayden Lambert as he dispenses drinks that put the art back into artisanal. 

2. Beneath Driver Lane

Bars Cocktail bars Melbourne

In the basement at the end of an alley, Beneath Driver Lane feels equal parts Melbourne, Chicago and Diagon Alley. The folks behind the bar are all practised professionals; personable, knowledgeable and looking sharp in black chef coats. What they’re mixing up is pretty sharp, too. 

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Stairwell at Bar Margaux
Photograph: Melanie Desa

3. Bar Margaux

Bars Cocktail bars Melbourne

Burrow underground to the Paris-via-New York brasserie Bar Margaux, a place where oysters are shucked, Champagne popped and steaks sizzled until the tiniest of hours (5am on Fridays and Saturdays). Time itself seems to melt away in this meticulously realised world where candlelight glows suggestively through Georgian wire glass partitions, where lipstick-red booths curve around marble tabletops and the only thing on the cards is indulgence.

4. Jungle Boy

Bars Cocktail bars Windsor

This leafy courtyard bar with chilled tropical vibes and tiki masks is hidden behind a fake fridge at the back of sandwich shop Boston Sub. Just go into the fridge and keep going.

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People sitting inside at Arlechin Melbourne
Photograph: Carmen Zammit

5. Arlechin

Restaurants Italian Melbourne

A nondescript, dumpster-strewn alley no more, Mornane Place has finally borne fruit with the arrival of a very late night bar with some seriously good eats. A city cannot have too many places like Arlechin. Beneath the sexily arched cork-lined ceiling lurks a place that feels like a subterranean clubhouse. Try the Bolognese jaffle. 

6. House of Correction

Bars Cocktail bars Melbourne

House of Correction, the cocktail bar downstairs from the Goldilocks rooftop, reflects the effortless class and hospitality Melbourne has come to represent. The cocktails on offer are made by some of Melbourne's friendliest and most experienced bartenders. Allocated numbers not names, these concoctions show up quickly even on a packed night, served elegantly in frozen glassware and garnished simply with a long twist of lemon, a pineapple leaf or a wedge of pink grapefruit.  

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A shot of the bar area at Loch and Key showing a bartender makin
Photograph: Graham Denholm

7. Loch and Key

Bars Melbourne

The city’s oldest pub has a secret. Loch and Key is hidden up a rickety staircase, behind a bookcase in the Captain Melville bar. Loch and Key is best known as a late-night reveller, when the couch-filled warren of rooms come to life, but its early evening appeal shouldn't be ignored, as the balcony is a beautiful spot to watch the sun go down.

8. Eau De Vie

Bars Melbourne

Bartenders pull out all the stops – and the liquid nitrogen – at this city speakeasy offering a magical mystery tour of history’s greatest drinks. There is even a whole room dedicated to whisky.

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Bar Americano
Photograph: Supplied

9. Bar Americano

Bars Cocktail bars Melbourne

A disruptive, all-standing, ten-person cocktail bar, it’s modelled after the stand-up Italian cafés where you have a lean, an espresso, a pastry, and quickly leave. Don’t expect to have more than a couple of cocktails here: there’s usually a line of customers behind you waiting to get in and exerting the moral pressure. The list is unapologetically, exclusively classics. The staff make them with expert precision; Americano has produced some of the city’s best bartending talents.

10. The Attic in Black Pearl

Bars Fitzroy

Everybody knows about Black Pearl, but did you know that there's another cocktail bar upstairs? It's only open from Thursday to Sunday, and you'll need to buzz into the Attic to get in, but make the most of the wonderful table service if you manage to get in.

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A shot of a bartender behind the bar at Hihou pouring a cocktail
Photograph: Graham Denholm

11. Hihou

Bars Cocktail bars Melbourne

Keep your eyes open or you might miss Hihou's entrance on Flinders Lane, near the corner of Spring Street. The cocktails at this sultry sake den are given reverential treatment and are peppered with yuzu, umeshu (plum wine) and shochu (grain spirit), but come hungry and make a meal out of the excellent bar snacks list.

Inside hidden venue at Trinket
Photograph: Supplied/Carmen Zammit

12. Trinket

Bars Cocktail bars Melbourne

At Trinket, there’s a staff member whose sole responsibility is advising people to turn a giant key that opens the door to the main bar, and another who is keeping tabs on how many have gone through the wardrobe down into the cellar bar below. There is a real twist – behind the overwrought premise is simply a fun, big-ticket cocktail lounge that saves you from going to another boring corporate bar in the city.

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13. Union Electric Bar

Bars Melbourne

Look for the big shiny lightning bold pinpointed by light globes among Chinatown's dumpling signs, and you'll find this chilled out cocktail lounge.

State of Grace 2018
Photograph: Supplied

14. State of Grace

Bars Melbourne

This swanky bar and restaurant Melbourne boasts a super secret cellar bar that you have to access via a bookcase. State of Grace isn't a one trick pony though, with the venue featuring three levels of fun from the ground level restaurant to the rooftop bar. Previously located on Collins Street, State of Grace made the move to King Street midway through 2018. It's just as mind-bogglingly kitsch as you remember it and we get the feeling even regulars haven't seen everything.

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15. The Understudy

Bars Melbourne

Its big sister, 1806, has a tasteful if very hard-to-see sign, but downstairs hidden Understudy has a bit of a speakeasy vibe. The cocktail list is full of undiscovered adventures too, including Smoke and Mirrors, which showcases Woodford Reserve Bourbon infused with chorizo sausage (that's right, sausage).

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Customers sitting in booths at Goldilocks
Photograph: Graham Denholm

18. Goldilocks

Bars Melbourne

Tucked above a Chinese dumpling house, two-tiered Goldilocks offers seductive booths and a view-blessed rooftop, with easy-drinking cocktails and beers.

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19. Glamp

Bars Melbourne

Above Polepole restaurant, this African-themed cocktail lounge is all canvas tents, animal prints and safari swagger.

20. Croft Institute

Bars Melbourne

Just getting to the Croft Institute feels like a little adventure. It's located at the bottom end of Croft Alley, and the bar is spread over three floors, each dimly lit and infused with a slightly creepy atmosphere. Grab a cocktail from the downstairs bar and watch it being made with some intense medical equipment.

Check out the 50 best bars in Melbourne

Looking for more Melbourne-style bars?

Bar at Union Electric
Photograph: Graham Denholm

The best laneway bars in Melbourne

Bars Cocktail bars

It's pretty safe to say that the more difficult a Melbourne bar is to locate, the better it is (once you're finally in there, that is). Knowing where to find drinking institutions like EDV and Lily Blacks is pretty much a prerequisite for all cocktail-loving locals.

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