Out to impress? Then swoosh up to the ear-popping 55th floor of the Rialto. No, we're not suggesting you drop a week's pay on dinner at Vue de Monde, but rather take a sharp left towards the bar. Here, among overstuffed lounges and flouncy lampshades, shiny folk sip Martinis as Melbourne twinkles below.
It takes a knockout food-and-drink offering to distract from that view. Fortunately, Lui is more than up to the task, with an Australian-accented selection that is deferential, rather than tongue-in-cheek. Polished staff take orders at the table, and may even prepare your drink there, too. There’s a sense of theatre to the Vodka Pour Over, a slow-drip assembly of Belvedere Vodka and single-estate coffee, which takes the cake as Melbourne’s finest Espresso Martini.
Bar manager Michael Calamante considers himself something of a mad scientist, so behind the bar there’s a stack of high-tech wizardry at play, such as sous vide machines for fat-washing and a Rotovap – the only one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, this rotary evaporator re-stills premium spirits, for added clarity and purity. It’s all fertile, fun ground for newcomer Jenna Hemsworth (ex Bad Frankie), who’s scooped up Time Out's 2016 Hot Talent Award, and was a finalist in the World Class competition. Here, among the pricey gadgets and hoshizaki ice, she’s whipping up Leatherwood Old Fashioneds and Velvet Rotor Macadamia Martinis, which mix macadamia fat-washed vodka with vaporised butter.
As you'd expect from Shannon Bennett’s kitchen, the bar snacks are A-grade, though they come with a price. There’s a $15 bowl of nuts and olives, right through to a 30g jar of Beluga caviar at a cool $210. Better value can be found in the chickpea fries, fried chicken and marron brioche rolls. But remember: you’re here for a good time, not a long time, so splash out on a couple of rounds, and then ride the elevator back down to reality.