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A shot of the outdoor area with people sitting on stools drinkin
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Melbourne bar and pub reviews

Looking for somewhere great to drink in Melbourne? Check out the latest reviews from our bar and pub critics

Written by
Time Out editors
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Bar Margaux
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Melbourne
Nobody would be shocked to hear that the cocktails at Bar Margaux are good. The CBD basement bar has excellent DNA, with a lineage that includes trophy-laden cocktail saloon the Everleigh and dive bar-esque Heartbreaker, where the booze quality is equal to the late-night debauchery. What is perhaps more surprising is that the cocktails at Michael and Zara Madrusan’s third bar are only one part of a very smart equation that, in true Melbourne style, thoroughly and successfully blurs the lines between bar and restaurant. A Melbourne take on a New York version of a Parisian bistro, Bar Margaux ticks all the right design tropes – chequerboard floor, shiny white subway tiles, booths, wired glass dividers, golden back bar lighting – and deftly assembles them so that the space sidesteps cliché and becomes very much right place, right time. Michael Madrusan’s time tending bar in New York was well spent, given how intrinsically he understands the kind of spaces a late-night joint like this needs – privacy in shadowy booths down one end, room for display around the bar. There’s also been serious thought put into the food. Like the fitout, the menu is a roll call of classics, offering the kind of French bistro dishes you’d expect in a place that looks like this. What you might not expect in a watering hole where the kitchen’s open until 3am (and beyond on weekends) is that you’re going to get such a good French onion soup or credible steak frites or such a ridiculously rich lobster croq
The Wood Samaritan
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Brunswick East
  • price 1 of 4
The Wood Samaritan is loosely Canadian log-cabin themed, with vintage skis, a full-sized canoe and pictures of Yukon landscapes hanging from the wood-panelled walls. But to say this is a themed bar would be an injustice. Despite the poutine and Bloody Caesar on the menu, this is first and foremost a neighbourhood joint – not a cheesy concept bar – and a good one to boot. The staff are lovely and welcoming; popping out from behind the bar to say hi to a couple of neighbourhood doggos, happy to explain the craft-leaning beers to a befuddled punter, and even chatting politely to a rookie sales rep who interrupts service to ply his wares. This is the kind of bar where you’re a welcome stranger on your first visit, a regular on the second, and a friend by the third. There are cheap tacos on Tuesdays, and the happy hour runs 4-7 on weeknights.  As well as a short but solid list of craft beers – almost exclusively local – there are simple but fun twists on classic cocktails like a Smoked Jalapeño Margarita, a Maple and Peach Sour and a PB&J Negroni made with peanut butter-washed bourbon and strawberry jam-infused vermouth. It’s delicious and way more subtle than it sounds, the bitterness of the Campari still working its magic, but it could stand a little less dilution. The Bloody Caesar (the Canadian version of the Bloody Mary made with a combination of tomato and clam juices) is on point too, overflowing with pickles and rimmed in spices.  A to-the-point list of bar snacks includes
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LuWow
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Melbourne
If you were hanging around Fitzroy in the mid-aughts, you may remember the tiki-themed bar/nightclub that was LuWoW, which closed in 2016. The tropical-kitsch venue rose from the dead in much smaller digs in the CBD in 2019. The new LuWoW is small and intimate, but lined with bamboo and still cluttered with Halloween exotica like the set of a 1960s Tarzan movie, it’s very much a version of the original.  On arrival, we’re greeted by a friendly host with a beehive hairdo, heavy winged eyeliner and a tropical print dress, who leads us to a booth overshadowed by huge totem poles. A lifelike plastic python stares through less-lifelike plastic foliage, and everything is bathed in soft red light like a James Bond sex scene.  The drinks list is 100 per cent tropical fun, with all the tiki hits like Mai Tais, Zombies and Painkillers playing lead. That Painkiller is ultra-sweet and creamy with coconut and dark rum, and the Zombie is also sticky sweet with baking spices, tasting a bit like a Christmas-scented candle from Bed Bath N’ Table. Balanced it ain’t, but it lives up to its reputation of packing a boozy punch. Here that booze is high quality, with premium rums like Plantation and five-year-old Demerara the base for most drinks. If you prefer to drink your rum neat, the “Skipper’s Rum Club” every Wednesday means steep discounts on the whole back bar.  For something a bit less sugary, grab a Waku Aku. This lighter, gin-based drink is still full of tropical fun, with mint, pineappl
Romeo Lane
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Melbourne
  • price 2 of 4
When out-of-town friends, in Melbourne for just one night, pop the question of where to go for a drink, Romeo Lane is the answer. The reason? It ticks all the expected Melbourne bar boxes – laneway location, obscure signage, civilised opening hours, educated service from tattooed and/or bearded bar folk – but then exceeds those expectations via a near-obsessive attention to detail so the bar sails past cliché and into truly great territory.  Romeo Lane was once the living room of a 19th-century residence. Its compact proportions, central communal table, open fireplace and lighting augmented by a wash of red neon from the Pellegrini’s sign across the lane gives the room an intense, flatteringly lit intimacy. Candlelight is reflected in beautiful cut crystal glassware and decanters and the low sheen of dark timber. When a Martini arrives, it’s perfectly chilled and diluted, sits on a silver coaster well-suited to the purpose and is accompanied by a small (cut) glass dish for olive pits. There’s an undeniable retro vibe to the place but drinking here is not so much stepping back in time as stepping out of it. This is where the cocktails come in. Owners Rita Ambroz and Joe Jones both have a keen appreciation for balance and restraint in their drinks. They nod to classic cocktail tradition with their correct glassware, quality ice, pared back garnishes and just two or three ingredients chosen not for brand or price or prestige but for the fact that they’re the ones that will get t
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Bar Liberty
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Wine bars
  • Fitzroy
  • price 2 of 4
We know, we know: we crowned Bar Liberty the Best Wine Bar (and our Bar of the Year) back in 2018. But things have changed since then: Josh Begbie (ex-Restaurant Shik, Poly, Brawn, Embla) has taken over from Banjo Harris Plane as the restaurant manager and wine buyer, and Zackary Leon Furst (ex- Ides, Attica) has been brought on board to take over Casey Wall’s responsibilities as head chef. Nick Tesar (who won Time Out's Bartender of the Year for 2020) is still the assistant manager, in charge of crafting the cocktail program while juggling his responsibilities as co-owner of Marionette liqueur.  Let’s drill it down. Why are they the cream of the crop again this year? Despite the changing of the guard, Bar Liberty’s aspirations are as clear as ever. The team want this bar to be the first stop for locals and tourists who want a world-class wine experience. And boy, do they deliver.  The wine list is still driven by lo-fi principles, but this wine list is full of bangers from producers like Jacques Selosse, Radikon, Ganevat, Jean-Yves Peron and Olek Bondonio (to name a few), who produce clean examples of these wines, rather than mistaking wine faults for character in minimal-intervention wines. And it’s not just the wine list that is compelling. The cocktails and spirits list includes classics like Negronis made with a local gin and originals like Sour Grapes (Starward Wine Barrel Edition whisky with pinot noir and yuzu). A flight of Empirical Spirit Co’s vacuum-distilled, koji
The Shady Lady
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Fitzroy
  • price 1 of 4
They say that you are only as strong as your weakest link, and at the Shady Lady, you’d be hard-pressed to find one, which is why its crew has earned the title of Best Bar Team in Time Out Melbourne’s 2020 Bar Awards. The Shady Lady is a dive bar, but not in the way that Melbourne normally does dive bars; the vibes are sassy and unpretentious, the drinks are cheap, the tunes are from yesteryear, and it’s the place to get rowdy any night of the week (the bar has a strict no-dickhead policy). It’s like your grandma’s house, if your grandma’s a bit of a fabulous alcoholic. Think orange tassel-covered lampshades, blue painted brick, a leather-wrapped bar, disco balls and velour, cabaret curtains. Delightful.  Drinks are fun instead of pensive, so expect frozen cocktails all year round. Lean into the dagginess and order a frozen Piña Colada, which is a perfect blend of coconut, pineapple juice, ice and a generous glug of rum. Is it garnished with a maraschino cherry? You betcha. Margaritas come frozen, on ice or served up, and it doesn’t matter which way you have it, your lime-and-tequila-based cocktail is consistently balanced, never saccharine and always with a half-salt rim. There is also a stable of interesting, local craft brews from Colonial, Bodriggy, Stomping Ground and Young Henrys and a well-stocked back bar that means bartenders can mix up any classic you desire; just ask nicely. Wine is available, but it isn’t the focus, with red, white, rosé and bubbles available by t
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Old Palm Liquor
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Wine bars
  • Brunswick
Owners Almay Jordaan and Simon Denman are describing their East Brunswick wine bar spinoff, Old Palm Liquor, as a pub. We’ve never been to a pub that serves over 300 low-intervention and biodynamic wines alongside 12 tap beers and a super-slick menu cooked over coals with a South African inflection before, but we like it. It might be useful to note that Old Palm Liquor’s wine list is built off the same principles as Neighbourhood Wine’s. The majority of the list, except for a literal handful of wines, are low-intervention wines that have either received extended skin contact, have been aged in amphora, have little to no sulfur added to the bottle, or are several of these things all at once. Confused? Don’t be. Each wine has been coded with its farming practices and processes so you’re not reaching for service every time you get to the end of a glass. Old Palm Liquor even point out which reds are served chilled, in case you’re expecting a full-bodied drop to warm you up on a winter’s night. Suffice to say, if you prefer conventional wines or have a more traditional or austere palate, it is best to stick to beers and spirits unless you’ve got a particularly fat wallet.  A nice touch for wine enthusiasts who want to try something different but don’t want to be put off by overly oxidative, mousy, cloudy or acidic examples (and hey, let’s face it, at times these characteristics are downright faults) is the ‘Everyday Wine’ page, which lists not only approachable minimal-interventio
Ends and Means
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Fitzroy
It’s no secret that the hospitality industry is a huge producer of waste. Think about those plastic straws, empty bottles, plastic-wrapped napkins, cardboard coasters, paper menus and food waste. Ends and Means opened with a vision of being a low-waste and sustainable cocktail bar, and true to its word, it produces less than one bag of landfill a day. That’s almost impossible for any commercial project, but Ends and Means is using rescued materials to fit out the bar (a lightning-struck elm tree is the bar top), creating plywood coasters that can be used repeatedly, updating its cocktail list to use seasonal ingredients on a weekly basis, only pouring beers from tap, composting green waste, making all its mixers and syrups in house, stocking sustainable spirits, upcycling glass bottles and even rigging its ice machine so the water melted is used on the courtyard plants. It’s not easy, but it means something to owners Marc Frew and Josh Hunt. All this sustainability doesn’t compromise the cocktails on offer. In fact, unless you were really paying attention, you wouldn’t even notice it. From the seasonal menu, the Daquie Chan is a play on the classic Daiquiri where the usual citrus juice and simple syrup is replaced with a blood orange reduction, lime stock and fig and cinnamon bitters to create a more complex, but still refreshing drink. Sours seem to be a house specialty, as drinkers can choose their own preferred base spirit, and a textbook, textured, refreshing cocktail is
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Byrdi
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Melbourne
There should be another word for what Byrdi is doing. Bar doesn’t quite cut it, despite the fact that dispensing booze is at the core of what it does. It seems more like some kind of lab where you get to play guinea pig to their scientist. There’s been nothing quite like it in Melbourne since Der Raum, which makes sense given that co-owner Luke Whearty cut his cocktail teeth at that highly influential bastion of eccentricity.  In more recent times Whearty and his partner, Aki Nishikura, have been picking up truckloads of awards and accolades at their Singaporean bar Operation Dagger, where they earned a reputation for opening up the conversation about what drinks can be. Now they’re in Melbourne – in Melbourne Central, to be exact – and are mixing things up here. The fact that Byrdi is located in a shopping centre and has the kind of earthy/organic fitout that you might mistake for an Aesop outlet is just the first part of adjusting your thinking. It’s a strong showing from Design Office, with the room’s segmented, almost chilly minimalism saved by the warmth of the materials used – Victorian ash, coconut husk flooring, bluestone. It’s going to look even better with some wear and tear. The drinks, made and served by a fleet of staff swaddled in crushed linen, are highly original and highly delicious in equal parts. There’s so much exciting technique here, plus a strong sense of seasonality. Techniques commonly associated with kitchens are front and centre – fermenting, smokin
Moon Dog World
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Breweries
  • Preston
The name makes it sound like a theme park of sorts, and that’s not far off. An indoor lagoon takes up one side of the space, overlooked by striped umbrellas and fed by a stream that flows from a five-metre indoor waterfall made of fake rocks. The space, a huge warehouse in the industrial back streets of Preston, recalls childhood memories of summers spent in cheesy water parks; there’s even a merch stand where you can buy packaged beers, T-shirts and fluoro stubby holders. Potted palms and walls of greenery flank double-stacked shipping containers, which have booths inside and balconies overlooking the room on top. One is filled with pinball machines and lounge furniture; another houses a tropical-themed bar bedazzled with fairy lights.  Despite the immensity of the space – and Melbourne’s crappy weather – the place is packed. Disco and ’70s pop rise above the cacophony of big groups of mates and young families occupying every inch of available real estate. The full-sized playground is overflowing with the progeny of Preston, and prams are parked around the rest of the room. Sneakers flash as parents pull toddlers away from the enticing waters of the lagoon. But despite the family vibe, the young and the childless are well represented, and there’s even a buck’s party pre-gaming for a big night on the town.  Today, the machine is humming, and you never have to wait long for anything. Behind the huge three-sided bar that juts into the room like a beer-fuelled command centre, mo
Romeo Lane
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Melbourne
  • price 2 of 4
When out-of-town friends, in Melbourne for just one night, pop the question of where to go for a drink, Romeo Lane is the answer. The reason? It ticks all the expected Melbourne bar boxes – laneway location, obscure signage, civilised opening hours, educated service from tattooed and/or bearded bar folk – but then exceeds those expectations via a near-obsessive attention to detail so the bar sails past cliché and into truly great territory.  Romeo Lane was once the living room of a 19th-century residence. Its compact proportions, central communal table, open fireplace and lighting augmented by a wash of red neon from the Pellegrini’s sign across the lane gives the room an intense, flatteringly lit intimacy. Candlelight is reflected in beautiful cut crystal glassware and decanters and the low sheen of dark timber. When a Martini arrives, it’s perfectly chilled and diluted, sits on a silver coaster well-suited to the purpose and is accompanied by a small (cut) glass dish for olive pits. There’s an undeniable retro vibe to the place but drinking here is not so much stepping back in time as stepping out of it. This is where the cocktails come in. Owners Rita Ambroz and Joe Jones both have a keen appreciation for balance and restraint in their drinks. They nod to classic cocktail tradition with their correct glassware, quality ice, pared back garnishes and just two or three ingredients chosen not for brand or price or prestige but for the fact that they’re the ones that will get t
The Everleigh
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Fitzroy
  • price 2 of 4
Who could have guessed that in 2019 the Everleigh would only just be reaching the height of its powers? Eight years of brisk business and weighty awards, plus successful forays into bottling, books and even hand-cut ice have meant that its reign as king of the north has hardly been under threat. But for the ever-ambitious Michael and Zara Madrusan, nor has it been enough. First, there was a big renovation. Then another. Where the Everleigh of yesteryear could at times feel a little removed, the Everleigh of today is breezy and generous, with plenty of seats at the bar, standing space for those passing through, and room for merrymaking groups. They even serve a formidable dinner now, with rustic Italian such as meatballs in chilli sugo and pillowy pesto ricotta gnocchi, although we still swoon hardest for inspired snacks like ‘boozy pickles’ and an achingly good ham and Gruyère melt with the zing of Worcestershire and whisky shallots. When it comes to cocktails, the Everleigh forgoes puffed-up ingredient lists and fleeting fashions for perfectly executed traditional libations and modern classics. The flavours of a Mojito are reconfigured then shaken and strained into the Miami, with a potent mint liqueur jolting awake light rum and lime. And we can’t shake the memory of a Catavino, its light profile belying a rich trove of aromas from Amontillado sherry, Cocchi Americano and orange bitters. For a gamble that always pays dividends, put your chips on the bartender’s choice, th
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Eau De Vie
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Melbourne
  • price 2 of 4
Eau de Vie was once one of those hidden bars that would take you a good chunk of time to find. Now, it’s one of the worst kept secrets in Melbourne. The American prohibition era premise hasn’t changed even though the trend has been left behind. EDV continues to be one of the busiest cocktail bars in town due to its ability to transport you out of the modern day and into the charms of yesteryear. But it isn’t just the jazzy soundtrack, private booths and staff clad in waistcoats that are the drawcard. EDV backs it up with some serious drinks and also a bit of flair. Chilling down drinks with liquid nitrogen, flaming spirits and tableside smoking are common practices here, and there is method to their madness. A Rob Roy arrives under a glass dome, trapped with wood smoke that does indeed add another alluring dimension to the already complex combination of whisky, rum and vermouth. Martinis are referred to as Noble Experiments, offering up a range of vodkas, gins, bitters, rinses and garnishes as an adult pick ’n’ mix for a truly customisable classic, served with liquid nitrogen to sustain the perfect drinking temperature. Adjourn to the whisky lounge, if you’re more inclined, for a dram. The list is vast and covers many styles, serving as an educational tour as well as a collection of the greats. There is even the opportunity to purchase your own bottle, should you be particularly taken with a whisky, for future consumption whenever you’re on site. Food is not an afterthought
The Local Taphouse
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • St Kilda
This is among our very favourite pubs in the city, one of only four with a five-star rating in Melbourne, and better by far than anything this side of South Melbourne. Tucked just off the unlikely corner of Carlisle and Balaclava, the Taphouse greets you with the comforting smell of heritage wood paneling. Warmly lit by tiny lamps ensconced in the walls, it feels like an old fashioned gentlemen's club that just happens to have one of the best craft beer lists in the city. As you head upstairs, the aroma of the wood fire on the rooftop terrace beckons, warming the space, which is packed even on one of the first truly cold nights of the year. From the upstairs bar you can order your pub meals, a winning selection of classics with some serious nosh thrown in like oysters, mussels in white wine, and a confit duck leg served in its own rich juices, every ounce of ducky deliciousness captured by the greens and swedes on which it lies. Hummus comes with minced lamb braised in earthy spices and chewy grilled pita, a highlight in our never-ending tour of Melbourne pub snacks. This really is the house of taps, 20 of which pour a roster of delicious froth from all over the world. It's one of the easiest pubs to find something you want to drink, the offering always carefully balanced and covering the whole gamut of styles. Stouts and sours, saisons and session ales, Belgians and blondes, plus everything else your little beer-soaked heart could desire bubble forth. Tap takeovers, brewery
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Hihou
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Melbourne
  • price 2 of 4
Wear your best socks if you plan on staying a while at Hihou. Once you’ve located the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it entrance on Flinders Lane, near the corner of Spring Street, you’ll be ushered upstairs to a sultry sake den. You can keep your kit on if you’re dining in the front room, home to padded bar stools and tiny, shrunken tables for two, with leafy views over Treasury Gardens. If you’ve booked a spot in the plushly carpeted top-tier dining space, however, you’ll be asked to slip off your shoes before sliding under one of the low-slung tables. Hihou has a stellar hospitality pedigree, hailing from Simon Denton and the crew behind Kappo (Time Out’s 2015 Restaurant of the Year) and Izakaya Den, so the risk of toe-exposure is a small price to pay for the remarkable Japanese fare. There’s the must-order Hihou hot dog, a smoky arabiki pork sausage on a sesame-dusted bun, served with sharp pickled onions and bottles of wasabi mayo and tonkatsu (barbecue sauce) to dollop as you please. ‘Cuban’ spicy tuna cigars are another staple: crisp brik pastry cylinders filled with a fine dice of tuna sashimi and seven-flavoured shichimi pepper. Teriyaki-sweet anago (eel) gets bundled into nori rolls with black rice and the refreshing crunch of cucumber. And golden lotus root chips make perfect beer fodder. You could happily make a meal out of these individual snacks, but if you’ve gone to the effort of untying your shoelaces, you may as well dip into mains territory, too. Pile slices of pork
Black Pearl
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Fitzroy
  • price 2 of 4
Melburnians never needed the succession of big international awards to know that the Black Pearl is where you go for a bloody good cocktail – though undoubtedly those accolades benefited the travellers who now flock to the bar as a checklist destination. Tash Conte’s family-run bar has been a beacon of excellence for 16 years now – forever in industry years – and they’re the place many of us learnt how to appreciate a fine drink. Not content to sit pretty on tried-and-tested masterpieces, their list is always on the move, keeping step with moods and seasons. All summer they’ve been leaning into a tropical, fun-loving theme, taking the tacky cocktails you’d get at an all-inclusive resort and reimagining them into serious contenders. You won’t find many world-renowned cocktail bars serving up a frozen Cosmopolitan, but here they do, made with proper, locally crafted curaçao to give depth and fragrance to the good-times drink. It’s the same kind of pluck that sees them doing an inspired bourbon-and-banana number in the Lady Finger, with citrus, Earl Grey and falernum lifting then tempering their burly flavours for a refreshing tipple that defies logic. A true legend is a magnanimous one, and in this regard the Black Pearl stands tall. The bar’s record for fostering talent is unmatched, with a litany of fresh faces turning into some of Australia’s best bartenders over the course of their time there. It’s made possible by a watertight team culture, nurtured by Conte with a devotio
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Gerald's Bar
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Wine bars
  • Carlton North
  • price 2 of 4
Gerald’s Bar has been on the tip of everyone’s tongue since it opened in the sleepy suburbs of Carlton North in 2007. 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. Sure, the wine list is a massive 200 bottles long, with a few bin ends, but the staff are helpful enough to decipher it for you. There are classic bottles from around the world sitting among the new, crazy, skin contact wines the kids are quaffing these days. Here, a handful of reds and whites are picked by the timely few, dictating what will be on by the glass for the next five pours. Spirits are aplenty, and they can mix you up a tonic for what ails you, but don’t expect any tricky bartending. Beers are quenchers, so there are no obscure craft brews that require chewing. The service is always unfussy, but with intent, meaning the busiest nights feel like the best party. The food menu is handwritten on butchers’ paper hanging off the ladder behind the bar, thick with Sharpie lines across sold-out items. The kitchen cooks what it feels like with daily changes, meaning one day you could be gnawing on barbecue pork ribs, and the next, cutting into a duck and pistachio ter
Marquis of Lorne
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Fitzroy
When the Marquis of Lorne Hotel closed, tears were shed for one of the golden girls of Fitzroy. She was a classic pub where the beer and food was decent and cheap, and the dark red interior was a comforting hideaway for locals. But after being shuttered for over a year, the grand old pub lives again. New owners Hitchens, Rowley, Vero and Benjamin, a group with serious hospitality chops, have struck a perfect balance between modernising the Marquis and retaining her classic charms. A couple of weeks in, these guys are already greeting regulars by name, and with a beautiful rooftop, great beer selection, and interesting, affordable food, there’s plenty of reasons to be neighbourly. The main bar has been repainted white and now feels open and breezy, almost begging for a pot-length delay on the path to wherever. They’ve also converted the old dumb waiter into a cured meat locker (they’ll slice some for you any time). The bar stools are stupid comfy. The tap beer list sees Sample Golden next to Coopers. It’s crafty enough without getting nerdy, while the thoughtful and balanced bottle list is full of gems like Lost Coast Amber. They also have an awesome selection of cans. The food is clean, fresh and beautifully presented by chef Jacob Swain (ex Epocha and Builder’s Arms). Counter meals include a chicken schnitzel, crunchy slaw replacing the traditional pile of flabby chips, and salad on the side. It’s enough on its own, but cheap enough that you can add battery potato cakes for
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Bar Liberty
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Wine bars
  • Fitzroy
  • price 2 of 4
We know, we know: we crowned Bar Liberty the Best Wine Bar (and our Bar of the Year) back in 2018. But things have changed since then: Josh Begbie (ex-Restaurant Shik, Poly, Brawn, Embla) has taken over from Banjo Harris Plane as the restaurant manager and wine buyer, and Zackary Leon Furst (ex- Ides, Attica) has been brought on board to take over Casey Wall’s responsibilities as head chef. Nick Tesar (who won Time Out's Bartender of the Year for 2020) is still the assistant manager, in charge of crafting the cocktail program while juggling his responsibilities as co-owner of Marionette liqueur.  Let’s drill it down. Why are they the cream of the crop again this year? Despite the changing of the guard, Bar Liberty’s aspirations are as clear as ever. The team want this bar to be the first stop for locals and tourists who want a world-class wine experience. And boy, do they deliver.  The wine list is still driven by lo-fi principles, but this wine list is full of bangers from producers like Jacques Selosse, Radikon, Ganevat, Jean-Yves Peron and Olek Bondonio (to name a few), who produce clean examples of these wines, rather than mistaking wine faults for character in minimal-intervention wines. And it’s not just the wine list that is compelling. The cocktails and spirits list includes classics like Negronis made with a local gin and originals like Sour Grapes (Starward Wine Barrel Edition whisky with pinot noir and yuzu). A flight of Empirical Spirit Co’s vacuum-distilled, koji
The Palace Hotel: South Melbourne
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • South Melbourne
  • price 2 of 4
The Palace remains one of the brightest jewels in the crown of Melbourne pubdom. On every scale one could judge a pub, these guys top the list. From beer, to sports, to food, to service, this unassuming little boozer has you covered. First and foremost, the Palace is made for regulars. It has a community atmosphere that’s hard to find these days, as most pubs have become either sad old boozers or too bright and trendy. Not so here, where the crowd is diverse in age and employment, kids are welcome, and the big shady beer garden is proudly pooch positive. But despite the fundamental lack of pretension here, the Palace is no slouch when it comes to quality. The simple pub meals are some of the best around – no-frills curries, parmas, pies and steaks that always hit the spot, plus the best Buffalo wings in town. Fifteen dollars will get you a different meal every day except Friday and Saturday. The rotating craft beer list is always engaging but never too challenging with local heroes like Wolf of the Willows XPA and Holgate Temptress, plus something dark and delicious on the hand pump, like an outstanding porter from Napoleon. They’re an official Good Beer Week venue, there’s always a fun brew-based event around the corner, too. If you’re a sports fan, you’re in the right place. These guys are AFL obsessed, the walls adorned in footy memorabilia, and will play any game for you on one of multiple screens so you never miss a point. AFL not your thing? Fear not. You can try your h
Bar Margaux
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Melbourne
Nobody would be shocked to hear that the cocktails at Bar Margaux are good. The CBD basement bar has excellent DNA, with a lineage that includes trophy-laden cocktail saloon the Everleigh and dive bar-esque Heartbreaker, where the booze quality is equal to the late-night debauchery. What is perhaps more surprising is that the cocktails at Michael and Zara Madrusan’s third bar are only one part of a very smart equation that, in true Melbourne style, thoroughly and successfully blurs the lines between bar and restaurant. A Melbourne take on a New York version of a Parisian bistro, Bar Margaux ticks all the right design tropes – chequerboard floor, shiny white subway tiles, booths, wired glass dividers, golden back bar lighting – and deftly assembles them so that the space sidesteps cliché and becomes very much right place, right time. Michael Madrusan’s time tending bar in New York was well spent, given how intrinsically he understands the kind of spaces a late-night joint like this needs – privacy in shadowy booths down one end, room for display around the bar. There’s also been serious thought put into the food. Like the fitout, the menu is a roll call of classics, offering the kind of French bistro dishes you’d expect in a place that looks like this. What you might not expect in a watering hole where the kitchen’s open until 3am (and beyond on weekends) is that you’re going to get such a good French onion soup or credible steak frites or such a ridiculously rich lobster croq
Beneath Driver Lane
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Melbourne
  • price 2 of 4
If you like cocktails, whisky, blues, good service and eating Reuben sandwiches at 2am, Beneath Driver Lane is your basement of dreams. Occupying an old bank vault in the CBD, this bar has a Harry Potter feeling that’s rare in a city whose subterranean spaces are sorely underused. If you remember the defunct Nant Whisky Bar you’ll be familiar with the space, but the new guise feels much more lived-in. It’s a vision of rustic Victorian style: the brick arched booths, the walls cluttered with black and white photos, and the warm light from candles and low-hanging lamps feels more comfortable and complete than Nant ever did. John Lee Hooker grinds his twelve bar over the soundwaves, combining with the fit out and the sharp service to give this place a feeling that’s equal parts Melbourne, Chicago and Diagon Alley. Water bottles rest on vintage chrome serving trays, and drinks come on coasters of thick leather – the magic is in the details. 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. For a bit of wow factor, custom build your Martini in a delicate wine glass chilled with swirling liquid nitrogen. Or get tropical with the deliciously sweet and complex Storm Master dominated by guava but with a refreshing sour finish.  The floral sweetness of a cucumber and lavender Old Fashioned is a bit cloying without the balance of acid or significant bitterness, and an ot
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Union Electric Bar
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Melbourne
  • price 1 of 4
A party-starting bar, with a rooftop, smack in Chinatown – what business does Union Electric have being really, really, good? It’s common knowledge that most CBD venues with similar natural advantages are content with steadfast mediocrity, coasting on the reliable business of office workers desperate for a pint and some vitamin D. Yet a brief glance at the team CV quickly obviates any doubt that the narrow alleyway bar would be anything but legit, starting with bossman Huw Griffiths, who’s clocked time at major players like Madame Brussels, the Royal Saxon and Collins Quarter. He and his business partner Shane Whiteley have taken that depth of experience and built a team around it, in the process creating something with both broad appeal and a distinctive identity. The bar champions fresh produce, each day pressing, juicing and infusing all manner of fruits, herbs and botanicals. They give extra vivacity to cheeky tiki cocktails and quenching highballs (remember those) like the light-and-bright Kum Den Botanica, in which gin, apple, lime, cucumber, elderflower and micro herbs taste plausibly healthy, though on sticky days it’s difficult to beat the quench of rum or whisky simply served tall over fresh apple juice. Union Electric’s success is in no small part due to their ceaselessly energetic team, a tight-knit crew whose genuine bonhomie and affection for each other spreads over and across the bar. You’d be hard pressed to find a group more welcoming and accommodating, both
Good Heavens
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Melbourne
  • price 1 of 4
Despite the name, Good Heavens isn’t a pearl clutching kind of place. Melbourne’s latest summer hotspot is brought to you by the team behind Fancy Hank's, and the vibe at this rooftop bar is a little bit Palm Springs, with pink signage and pastel blue paintwork. They clearly got the memo on the 2016 Pantone colours of the year, and the combo makes the venue feel summery even on a gloomy day when you’re forced under cover. From the moment the doors open local suits and bar hunters with their finger on the pulse start staking their claim on the precious rooftop real estate so that they can spend an evening lording it over Bourke Street while Hawaiian shirt-clad staff shake up vintage tipples at the central island bar. The cocktail list is trying, with some success, to make bright, retro cocktails a thing again. Their take on the Piña Colada, dubbed the Poco Loco, tastes like an island holiday with coconut fat-washed Havana Club and Stolen Gold rum, topped with coconut cream and pineapple juice. It's a tall, and very sweet cocktail, but goes easy on the coconut cream so it's coconuty without tasting like a smoothie. The Electric Blue is a shade of azure not seen since alco-pops went out of style and is unabashedly boozy with Tito’s Texan Vodka, West Winds Sabre, Olmeca Tequila, Havana Club Anos and enough Joseph Cartron Blue Curacao to make the drink neon-hued. They’re taking all that advice about not mixing spirits and throwing it out to sea. Though no one said you can’t eat g
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Johnny’s Green Room
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Carlton
On a sunny Saturday evening, Johnny’s Green room is heaving. The rooftop bar at Carlton’s King & Godfrey adds a new element to this iconic Lygon Street business. After being closed for rennos for over three years, the decades-old gourmet purveyor is finally back, offering café service, deli goods and a great selection of European and local wines to take away on the ground floor. But up the lifts you’ll find a big and bright patio bar serving beer, wine, cocktails and snacks. From this lofty position, Carlton is snapping back at the rooftop bar explosion in the CBD and Fitzroy, proving that Melbourne’s original hospitality precinct can do anything the city can do, too.  Spectacular 270-degree views towards the city skyline are only broken by the tops of Carton’s plane trees in full summer flourish, while canvas awnings and umbrellas offer plenty of shade. There are at least two hen’s parties here tonight, and the raucous conversations feel fun rather than overbearing with no walls or ceiling to echo off. The beautiful people of Carlton sip Aperol Spritzes on tap, and DJs let their easy listening beats provide unobtrusive background sounds. It’s seriously busy, the 200-capacity venue full to the brim, so book in early for groups or expect to wait in line downstairs on a weekend. Even if there’s space at your table, they won’t let mates skip the line to join you unless you’ve pre-booked a function. Despite the onslaught, bar service is remarkably quick and efficient. They’ve set
Trinket
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Melbourne
Folks, it’s 2018 – there’s no such thing as a secret bar anymore, thanks to social media check-ins, geotags and midnight ’grams. Of course, that’s not stopping bars keeping up appearances, be they up attics, down alleys, underground or behind fridge doors.Even by today’s loosened standards, CBD newcomer Trinket – a self-described “secret cocktail bar with a hidden cellar” – is particularly brazen, given their prime Flinders Lane frontage, 250-person capacity, and backing by pub giant Australian Venue Co (the Duke of Wellington, Imperial Hotel, the Crafty Squire). 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.So, Trinket keeps secrets about as well as a tipsy aunt, but 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. Kick off with summery house cocktails like Espolon Tequila shaken with lemon, passionfruit and a rhubarb-infused sake providing both subtle herbiness and a photo-ready shade of millennial pink, while Sherry Cobblers play crisp, dry Fino against dark and sticky Pedro Ximénez, their combined muskiness lifted by pineapple, lemon and almond syrup. The drinks are fresh and light, but prepare to drop north of $20 on your mixology here.There is a fireplace that could hav
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Romeo Lane
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Melbourne
  • price 2 of 4
When out-of-town friends, in Melbourne for just one night, pop the question of where to go for a drink, Romeo Lane is the answer. The reason? It ticks all the expected Melbourne bar boxes – laneway location, obscure signage, civilised opening hours, educated service from tattooed and/or bearded bar folk – but then exceeds those expectations via a near-obsessive attention to detail so the bar sails past cliché and into truly great territory.  Romeo Lane was once the living room of a 19th-century residence. Its compact proportions, central communal table, open fireplace and lighting augmented by a wash of red neon from the Pellegrini’s sign across the lane gives the room an intense, flatteringly lit intimacy. Candlelight is reflected in beautiful cut crystal glassware and decanters and the low sheen of dark timber. When a Martini arrives, it’s perfectly chilled and diluted, sits on a silver coaster well-suited to the purpose and is accompanied by a small (cut) glass dish for olive pits. There’s an undeniable retro vibe to the place but drinking here is not so much stepping back in time as stepping out of it. This is where the cocktails come in. Owners Rita Ambroz and Joe Jones both have a keen appreciation for balance and restraint in their drinks. They nod to classic cocktail tradition with their correct glassware, quality ice, pared back garnishes and just two or three ingredients chosen not for brand or price or prestige but for the fact that they’re the ones that will get t
Bomba
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Melbourne
Rebranding – once seen as a desperate act of denial on the part of failing interest – is suddenly all the rage. The Press Club has been belting along since it became casual Greek eatery Gazi in August, and now it looks like the punt may pay off for the team behind the Aylesbury: the produce-driven, pickle-loving restaurant on Lonsdale Street that has now become Spanish boozery, Bomba. Gone is the duck mascot. Gone too are the intricate technique-driven plates of all things local, pickled and smoked. In their place you’ll find a red-hued room festooned with woven straw light shades, tapas built for get-in-get-out eating and enough vermouth to sink an armada. This is Bomba. And the place is heaving. At 7pm on a Tuesday we squeeze into the last table. If you’re planning on coming any later, we recommend you book – you can do that – but if you do walk in and have to wait, the rooftop bar is a pretty good place to kick things off with a frosty Estrella. Or how about some vermouth? They’ve got the botanically funked up fortified wine coming out of their ears, and pretty soon out of a tap – courtesy of the local dudes at Maidenii, who are making them a special blend. Head chef Andrew Fisk’s menu is built of little things that are easy to put together, and post aperitivo things happen pretty fast. Within seconds the table is covered in plates of translucent air-dried tuna curls (mojama) that taste like soft fishy jerky and fine, candy-striped ribbons of slow cooked pork belly that’s
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The Everleigh
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Fitzroy
  • price 2 of 4
Who could have guessed that in 2019 the Everleigh would only just be reaching the height of its powers? Eight years of brisk business and weighty awards, plus successful forays into bottling, books and even hand-cut ice have meant that its reign as king of the north has hardly been under threat. But for the ever-ambitious Michael and Zara Madrusan, nor has it been enough. First, there was a big renovation. Then another. Where the Everleigh of yesteryear could at times feel a little removed, the Everleigh of today is breezy and generous, with plenty of seats at the bar, standing space for those passing through, and room for merrymaking groups. They even serve a formidable dinner now, with rustic Italian such as meatballs in chilli sugo and pillowy pesto ricotta gnocchi, although we still swoon hardest for inspired snacks like ‘boozy pickles’ and an achingly good ham and Gruyère melt with the zing of Worcestershire and whisky shallots. When it comes to cocktails, the Everleigh forgoes puffed-up ingredient lists and fleeting fashions for perfectly executed traditional libations and modern classics. The flavours of a Mojito are reconfigured then shaken and strained into the Miami, with a potent mint liqueur jolting awake light rum and lime. And we can’t shake the memory of a Catavino, its light profile belying a rich trove of aromas from Amontillado sherry, Cocchi Americano and orange bitters. For a gamble that always pays dividends, put your chips on the bartender’s choice, th
Mitre Tavern
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Melbourne
The oldest standing structure in Melbourne, a shingled pre-Victorian gingerbread house tucked down Bank Place in the CBD, is home to one of the city's best old-school pubs. Surrounded by big square canvas umbrellas giving shade to barrels and high bar tables, the Mitre looks as though some magical tornado has picked up a pub from the English countryside and deposited it incongruously amongst the steel and glass of Melbourne’s financial district. Dating back to 1837, the heritage-listed pub (which began operating as such in 1868) has a long and fascinating history. Said to be a favourite haunt of Melbourne’s Bohemian set in the early 20th century, it’s also apparently haunted by the ghost of Connie Waugh, who once lived here as the mistress of Sir Rupert Clarke. The story goes that Ms Waugh hanged herself once Sir Rupert returned to his wife, and now treads these ancient boards waiting for her lost love to return. The scene of many a fancy dinner and sealed deal in the heady days when every business meal was fully deductible, it’s within these walls that many a bottle of Grange has disappeared down the gullets of Melbourne’s business elite. So if you want to drink like the stock market crash of ‘87 never happened, this is the pub for you. Financial and legal district suits of a silver-haired variety pack this place nightly, swilling Stella and Heineken like the Commies are coming. Upstairs in the dining room, prime cuts are served by waiters in long aprons, with bottles of shi
Above Board
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Collingwood
  • price 2 of 4
Hayden Lambert is a former Time Out Bartender of the Year for his tenure at Bar Americano. He must have gotten used to close quarters at Presgrave Place, because his current digs are almost as compact. His bar is a command centre at the heart of a tiny room, with only a handful of seats facing Lambert as he dispenses drinks that put the art back into artisanal. The menu proudly declares that Lambert delivers cocktails and bad banter: something worth mentioning as he’s had years honing his daggy dad jokes, dry wit and old-man grump. This adds to your experience, rather than takes away, as the offering at Above Board is not just personalised, but personal. Sure, a chat with Lambert will help you determine if you’re after a classic or a signature cocktail (all $21), but you’re also getting a little bit of his life story with every drink. There’s one named after his previous employer, cocktail bar disrupter Matt Bax, the Empire Strikes Bax. One is a blatant dedication to his wife – Erin’s Delight. The HSL Special sounds like a cocktail to finish your night with on paper, but is surprisingly refreshing. The amaro and absinthe are the high and low tones in your glass, defined and detectable but not overpowering or overindulged. They are especially balanced when shaken with lime and blackberry and delivered to you over a large block of of ice stamped with the bar’s logo. Lambert’s chops have already earned him the accolades, but with a bar entirely of his own vision and backed by th
Amarillo
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Wine bars
  • Fitzroy
  • price 2 of 4
You are in danger of feeling too comfortable at Amarillo, the low-lit, mid-century-styled wine bar and café on Brunswick Street. Once you sink into those rump-cupping swivel chairs in the front window you might start thinking about taking off your shoes while you sip that Minius Godello, a Spanish white that tastes like ripe melon and lemon drops and is one of their best sellers.  We certainly aren’t the only ones treating this bar like a second home. On a Sunday night someone has booked a birthday dinner for ten, only to have 24 people to show up. The staff just tacked more chairs onto the snaking group table and went out the back to break it to the chef. Imagine if someone took a little European café and Marie Kondo’ed the hell out of it, paring it right back to tall white walls, blond timbers, flatteringly low lighting, a few choice art works and a shining Simonelli coffee machine on the bar. That’s the vibe here. The wine list reads like an 18 year-old’s gap year hit list with most of central and western Europe getting a look in, plus a whole lot of Victorian drops leading the local charge. But we can’t help but live a summer holiday fantasy through a smashable Sicilian (Ciello Bianco Catarratto) with just a hint of soapy grip to it. The menu definitely has Spanish sensibilities to it, with plump mussels served on the half shell and doused in a tomato sauce punctuated with rich, porky sobrasada pieces. It’s less surf-and-turf than paddock-and-estuary, with a whole lot of
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Amelia Shaw
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Brunswick
Brunswick’s finally got a real cocktail bar. You may not know about it yet – it’s brand new. But chances are you’ve been here before. Amelia Shaw occupies the upper floor of Brunswick pub legend the Retreat, and this high-falutin' lady is just as elegant and sophisticated as her nether regions are beer stained and rowdy. Like a bonnet, on a bogan. Powerhouse can shakers Lou Dare (New Gold Mountain, the Alchemist) and American muso Elizabeth Barker, are dividing their time here between making cocktails and vigorously stoking the three fires that grace Amelia’s art deco rooms. The fitout is incredible, masterminded by designer Danielle Brustman who’s pulled together an artist's trove of treasures. Check out the cubic chandelier of pearlescent glass boxes from a Japanese casino, and the lush, red, round pool table. Make sure you cop an eyeful of the goodies inside Gonzalo Varela’s circus-style peep show too. These centrepieces, along with wicker chairs, and bushels of peacock feathers are all posed against the elegant bones of the Victorian rooms. Painted in reds, or large geometric murals it’s Bauhaus meets parlour party, and it’s all glam as hell. The drinks, meanwhile, are all Australian. On the rail is Tromba tequila, West Winds gin, Tassie vodka 666, and as many Australian infused liqueurs as they could get their mitts on. The result is a cocktail list of classics with a Dame Edna accent. Settle by the hearth with a Qantas, (their Aviation) with a violet liqueur from Tambou
Anada
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Fitzroy
  • price 2 of 4
Añada is Spanish for ‘year’s harvest’, an apt choice of name for a restaurant with a commitment to seasonal ingredients and a constantly shifting menu. Established by a pair of Australian Hispanophiles, previously of London’s River Café and Melbourne’s much-loved Movida, this diminutive, warmly lit venue serves Spanish-style tapas and raciones without slavishly imitating ‘traditional’ Spanish cuisine. Añada hold two dinner sittings per evening, at 6 and 8pm, and boasts a row of comfortable leather barstools for those only looking for a quick bite or a drink. Parties of eight or more are confined to a set menu, at $50 for a generous nine courses or $65 for an extravagant 12. The kitchen has no difficulty catering to special diets – ours was a particularly awkward party of two omnivores, two vegetarians, two pescatarians and one vegan, and all of us dined like obnoxious Saudi princelings. Highlights include natural oysters with lemon; fried eggplant with sour cream and slivers of very hot chilli; green tomato gazpacho with cucumber and green onion; whole mackerel wrapped in vine leaves; and sweet, tender mushrooms fried in ghee. The very large sherry list is exclusively Spanish, while almost every wine, beer and liqueur offering is either Spanish or Australian. The service is excellent: waitstaff are both observant and knowledgeable and the restaurant abounds in thoughtful, un-showy little touches, from the tiny pots of black salt on the tables to the fresh flowers in the toile
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Angel Music Bar
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Melbourne
Angel Music Bar is the meeting of two very different minds.  In one corner, you have Con Christopoulos, the powerhouse restaurateur with City Wine Shop, The European, Syracuse, Neapoli, Spring Street Grocer, Kirk’s, Kirk’s Wine Bar, French Saloon and Butchers Diner under his belt. In the other, you have Georgina O’Connor, one of Melbourne’s best-dressed, Gen-Y artist types, who is the ultimate cool girl. On paper, it is an odd pairing, but together, they’ve brought the sometimes low-key, always pumping Angel Music Bar to the CBD where the old Korova Milk Bar used to be. Music is front and centre, with a collection of records pumping out of Funktion One speakers specifically installed to fill the room with one of the most enjoyable soundtracks we’ve come across in a bar. We visit on a Tuesday, where it is unofficially Jazz Night, and Angel Music Bar’s definition of jazz is pretty loose. The speakers drip with John Coltrane, Susan Wong, Esther Phillips and Ute Lemper with scatterings of David Bowie and the newly released Tarantino playlist while the laid-back, midriff-baring bartender, who is the very embodiment of contradictory cool, is mixing a Martini while admitting that she is a teetotaller. Gotcha. So how does a Martini by a non-drinker taste? Not wet as requested and a little over diluted, but it does the trick. At $20 a cocktail, it isn’t the worst version of a Martini we have received, so colour us stunned.  Wines and fortifieds get a bit more consideration, as they’re
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Melbourne
  • price 1 of 4
This massive outdoor eatery and beer garden sandwiched between two Melbourne icons (the Yarra River and Flinders Street Station) stretches for 120 metres along the river bank and is officially Melbourne’s longest bar. They’ve got Espresso Martinis and Aperol Spritz on tap for quick-fire service so you can spend more time kicking back and less queueing, otherwise the juicy tang and fresh kick in the Tommy’s Watermelon Margarita is a just reward for your patience. Swap your rosé tinted glasses for the orange variety, specifically a bottle of the 2011 Pheasant Tears Katheti from the Georgian Republic. Just when you thought your summertime tableau couldn’t get better, a cart of frozen boozy popsicles wheels by and you add a peach prosecco Bellini icypole to your tab. Bring on the heat wave, Melbourne: the Arbory has got this.    
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Atico
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Windsor
Beat a path through the hungry taco fans at Fonda (Windsor edition) to the staircase at the back. At the top you’ll find Atico: a bright, breezy bar that puts the chilli on this crazily busy eatery’s enchilada. A lot of punters wind up getting corralled in here for pre-dinner Pacifico beers, but it works as a stand-alone bar. You’re looking down the barrel of a whole lot of fruit-driven drinks in jars that wouldn’t look out of place on a beach. A Spanked Basil Gin Smash is a tall glass of citrusy freshness. Go for a Mexicano of tequila, red vermouth and Campari served straight if you’re after something a little more red blooded. They also do a roaring trade in grapefruit, tequila and Aperol slushies if you really want to channel Cancun. The space is set up for leaning and lounging. There’s a scattering of low, candlelit tables and the room is bordered by benches stacked with bright cushions. If it gets busy, drag some down and make a nest on the floor. Hit the deck if you like late afternoon sun or smoking. The menu is just meant as a warm-up for downstairs, but you could always order up some guacamole, rock ling croquettes and dishes of fried potatoes with spicy aioli and build yourself a little Mexi-tapas meal.
Atticus Finch
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Brunswick
  • price 2 of 4
As the name suggests, Brunswick’s Atticus Finch is a bar of the literary persuasion. Directly opposite the Alderman, it’s a deep, dimly lit venue that combines modern comfort with old-fashioned eccentricity. Scattered with old books and housing a collection of rustic ephemera including paraffin lamps, pinned insects and a handsome stuffed pheasant, it feels a little like the hunting lodge of a well read country gentleman. Contradicting that impression however is a full set of decks, a record collection that ranges from bluegrass and modern folk to Grace Jones and Daft Punk, and a Storm Trooper helmet displayed like a prized artefact behind the bar. Large, comfortable leather booths that seat up to six occupy the front of the bar, with more formal seating to the rear. There’s a sweet garden, and a small shed containing a free pool table at the very back. Returning for the moment to matters literary and libational: the cocktails, which you’d be well advised to try, include the Catcher in the Rye, the De Balzac and the gentle Rose of Carringford. An impressive whisky list is prefaced with the tale of the SS Politician – the sinking of which inspired the book Whisky Galore! Sixteen bucks buys a ‘whisky flight’, a tasting selection of half-shots of any three whiskies. There are wines from all over Europe and Australasia, and a large selection of bottled beers organised by type, including lagers and pilsners, English real and Belgian ales. The tap beer selection changes regularly,
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Auburn Hotel
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Hawthorn
The exterior of this Hawthorn East mainstay has a commanding, fortress-like presence along the skyline as you approach via its namesake road. Inside the Auburn, however, you’re greeted with a pristine warmth akin to an upmarket country pub. Big screens populate most walls, with bar staff more than happy to accommodate requests for background music to be subdued in favour of blaring commentary. The elegance of the connecting wine room permeates a touch of class into the front bar, carried over into the immaculately presented, astro-turf-lined beer garden. Both the bar menu and the tap beer range feel as if they’re the cream of the current crop. Longstanding champion Asahi neighbours the crisp, trendy Geelong ale Furphy occupying the row of taps along with Little Creatures Bright Ale and Boags Draught. Iberian chorizo shares menu space with chicken wings in a tamarind sauce. To use the football term du jour, the bar menu has depth. The best gameplan is to bring a crew and share snack options.  Proudly operating since 1888 (with a stint as the Geebung Polo Club), the Auburn pulls off a classy demeanor while never feeling anything short of a welcoming to sports fans.    
Ba Charlie
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Windsor
  • price 1 of 4
Melbourne bars like to play hard to get. We’re constantly being sent on hide-and-seek missions down dingy alleyways, or through a fridge at the back of a sandwich shop. And now the Charlie Dumpling team is making us work for our reward with Ba Charlie in Prahran. To find this elusive boozer, enter Charlie Dumpling Jr, the tiny takeaway joint a few doors down from the High Street original. The shop doesn’t look like much from the outside: there’s a window for ordering and a clutch of stools for dining in, but the bright, unflattering light is enough to dissuade anyone from lingering too long. Rather than spending the first five minutes trying to pry open the electrical cabinet off to the left (trust us, it’s just a ramen-like jumble of cords back there), zero in on a satay-coloured circle, printed at waist height on the back wall. A gentle tap is all it takes to fling open the bar’s hidden door. It’ll take your eyes a moment to adjust to the inky darkness, but once they do you’ll register a surprisingly deep, industrial-chic speakeasy of polished concrete floors, graffiti-style murals and wire cages cradling wine bottles. Running the length of the room, a fridge houses spice-friendly rieslings, summer-perfect rosé and sparkling wines to get the party started. Each bottle is chalked with a takeaway price, plus a $15 supplement for drinking in. If you can’t commit, a blackboard menu near the door lists 20-odd options by the glass, which hover around the $10 mark. Just as chef Dy

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