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Purple Pit

  • Bars
  • Melbourne
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. Table of drinks, snacks and a vase of flowers.
    Photograph: Parker Blain
  2. Art on the wall behind a bar.
    Photograph: Parker Blain
  3. A white table with a rose in a vase, various plates of food and a tray of drinks.
    Photograph: Parker Blain
  4. Bartender with tattooed hands preparing a calzone.
    Photograph: Parker Blain
  5. Dish of oysters with balsamic and saffron dressing.
    Photograph: Parker Blain
  6. Photograph: Plate of tuna loin.
    Photograph: Parker Blain

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

A dream team is disrupting Melbourne’s bar scene, and their divey basement of suave snacks and potions may just be one of the CBD's sexiest new cocktail bars

One daring duo, a subterranean space in the same building that houses regal Reine and La Rue, and an original vision to shake things up in Melbourne: these were Purple Pit’s trifecta of selling points when it quietly opened late last year. And they were the right ones to spark instant intrigue. The new cocktail bar is a joint project from none other than restaurateur Maurice Terzini (Sydney’s Icebergs) and drinks maverick Joe Jones (Romeo Lane). It’s their first shared venture, and as we come to find out one Thursday night, far too interesting to visit just once.

There’s a whisper of Berlin about the bar’s design, better defined as a blend of brutalism and old-timey class. It’s been inspired by Europe’s great hotel bars of yore, and you can spot that influence in white tablecloths, uniformed bartenders and antique silver coasters, but everything else has been given the punk treatment. A friend and I drift downstairs to discover a lair so dark that objects appear in soft focus, loud tapestries of art strewn across the walls , and a soundtrack that grumbles, sighs and groans right across the eclectic post-punk gamut. It’s all just pretty damn cool, and in the truest sense of the word. A moody glow of reddish-purple lighting seals the deal.

Our moment of reverie is short-lived, however, as we soon feel like we’re on an airstrip. The air is hot and muggy (strange, even for a Melbourne summer), and to mitigate that, a giant fan at each corner of the room blows air into the centre – a vortex of chaos, for the space isn’t huge. Though menus occasionally fly off the tables amidst the whirring, we don’t let this oddity deter us. It’s only the first month since Purple Pit has opened and a few things are still in the process of coming together – like air-conditioning, for example. The bartender assures me this will come very soon.

In any case, it’s the drinks we’re most curious about and a first round is in order. It’s a Watermelon and Toasted Almond Spritz for me and a Magic Arrow for my friend. Pale and peachy-hued, the Spritz tastes like if a watermelon popsicle and fine Champagne made sweet, sweet love and had an effervescent lil’ baby. Though the almond note is subtler than I was expecting, it’s the perfect refreshment for a hot night. The Magic Arrow, a smooth concoction of strawberry and cream distillate, vermouth and bitters, has been so clarified it looks like water while planting fond memories of that classic Wimbledon dessert on your tongue. It’s creamy, fruity and satin-sleek, with fresh strawberry to garnish – and a favourite of our bartender’s, we’re told.

But the hits don’t end there. Cocktails to follow include the cheekily named Cat Walk, a dance of red wine, date, ginger and lime that’s packed to the brim with small spheres of ice and borders more on medicinal than sweet, and the smoky and intense mezcal-based ‘Mexican Firing Squad. The drinks don’t leave too much of a complex farewell after slipping down your gullet, but their disarming simplicity is precisely what makes them so pleasant. And of course, they’re impressive. With talents like Terzini and Jones at the helm, you shouldn’t really expect anything less.

On the food front, Purple Pit opts for glam-meets-comfort eats. Think olives in smoked vinegar, cured tuna loin, cheese-dusted pizzette or calzone (the menu rotates) and other imaginative snacks Terzini and Jones fondly refer to as “Champagne food”. A plate of ‘roo salami packs plenty of bush funk punch on the palate – even lovers of super wild, super gamey flavours could find it a bit challenging – and the bread we’re served is dense and damper-like. A pizzetta is next, arriving cut in half in a cardboard box, its thick, chewy base smooshed with peaches, greens and zippy licks of fermented chilli. It’s the oysters that charm us the most, dreamily swimming in a balsamic and saffron emulsion. They whizz down our throats a fresh, silky treat.

The adventure concludes with a Martini (expertly balanced and elevated by a spiced orange liqueur), and a bold new take on a Negroni entitled If I Can Dream. Each cocktail’s ice cube wears a hat of orange peel, which imparts the fruit’s essential oil aroma when you lean down to take a sip. Such neat, lovely touches – and again, the drinks simply can’t be faulted. The down-to-earth service team are knowledgeable and willing to cater to all tastes, and there’s a solid vino selection to round out your options. I’d love just a few refinements to the food menu, but there’s an entire world of cocktails here that beckon further exploration.

Purple Pit leans in for a deep French kiss, but plants a peck on your cheek instead… and then, it bites you in the jugular when you’re not looking! It’s a tease, and at times, a surprise, but as is the case with any deliciously mysterious situationship, I’m dying to go there again. Open most days until 1am, it’s a sneaky link that could be hard to shake.

Time Out Melbourne never writes starred reviews from hosted experiences – Time Out covers restaurant and bar bills for reviews so that readers can trust our critique.

Love Melbourne's bar scene? Here's our top 50 right now. And for more late-night eats, check out our ultimate guide.

Lauren Dinse
Written by
Lauren Dinse


Shop 2/B1/380 Collins Street
View Website
Opening hours:
Tue-Sat 5pm-1am
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