An oasis of cool in the backstreets of Collingwood comes complete with sherry and dagwood dogs
Tucked in among the warehouses down Easey Street in Collingwood, Paradise Alley is well worth the venture off the main strip. At five on a Friday, Tom Waits weaves his spooky tales from the turntables on the bar where a lone couple sits, acting like they might break up soon if they could be bothered. Two blokes play a quiet game in the otherwise empty poolroom, its doors paned in glass like a 1920s drinks cabinet. But once a few more people show up at Paradise Alley the music builds to match, the bar staff start pouring shots for regulars, and there’s a genuine neighborhood feeling all too rare in an era of themed bars and obsessive social media.
It's like the warehouse apartment of your Collingwood fantasies. The brick and beam room is dotted with hardwood bar tables sanded until soft to the touch. The space is lit by vintage lamps and adorned with plants; windows look back into the motorcycle workshop next door; and vintage furniture provides warmth and gravitas. It’s mostly a DIY job, built and fitted out by owner Laura Twomey (ex City Wine and French Saloon) and her handy bunch of mates and they’ve nailed it, with personality to spare.
Behind the bar, Twomey is unrushed, attentive and engaging, playing old school publican like a champion. The drinks list includes craft beers and plenty of wine, with sherry and port getting top billing, and rightly so. The short but carefully selected list of imports will expand as folks get used to the idea of fortifieds as an everyday drinker – these are a far cry from the flagons of cream sherry your Nan used to drink. Beers by bottle and can are more interesting than the tap offering – a Pinner Passion Fruit IPA tastes like a bitter, grownup Passiona, and Barley Griffin Pale Ale is bright with juicy hops. There’s also Melbourne longnecks and Toohey’s Old.
Excellent cocktails include the Lucy Juice: blanco tequila shaken with grapefruit, two different amaros and freshly squeezed lime. The result is the kind of sweet-bitter-salty freshness that lets good tequila shine through. By the glass you can quaff a jammy Reed Alexia Grenache from Barossa or a deep Chapter Malbec from Heathcote that’s all sour watermelon. The bottle list is way cool too, with wines from little known regions and even a special “Last Chance Romance” list of one-offs, but it’d be nice to see a few more of the natural and strange by the glass.
Kick-ass bar food is provided by Little Latin Lucy and chef Renee Trudeau, formerly of Huxtable and Clever Polly’s. She knows the flavours of South America by heart, and proves it with authentic arepas, empanadas and tacos – we like the one piled generously with rich smoked duck balanced by the sweetness of pineapple salsa and the crunch of shredded cabbage. Mini dagwood dogs are made with Meatsmith franks fried in cornmeal beer batter, then topped with sweet mayo sauce and crumbles of smoky bacon for an legitimately awesome version of the showground classic.
By midnight the bar is thrumming to Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, but the space is big enough to accommodate the crowd with elbow room to spare, and the 'tenders are still slinging drinks with a smile. The eponymous alley down the side is full of smokers enjoying a bit of quiet with their darts, overlooked by a wall of huge graff murals. Paradise Alley feels like you've stumbled across a very cool house party, but you won't feel awkward walking in here. Sitting comfortably in the space neglected by both ironically hipster and overly serious bars, this alley is a welcoming oasis for all.
|Venue name:||Paradise Alley||Contact:|
25 Easey St
|Opening hours:||Wed-Fri 4pm-late; Sat, Sun noon-late|
|Do you own this business?|