Anyone who braved this basement in its last incarnation, the Liberty Social, will recall a dark, debauched music venue, the kind of club where you might pick something up if you lingered too long. As the Mill House, the subterranean enclave in Tomasetti House couldn’t be more different.
The down-and-dirty band room is gone and the milk crates have been kicked to the curb. Industrial pendant lights bring a warm, honeyed glow to the windowless space, the wood-panelled bar is lined with comfy leather stools, and curvaceous booths beckon for extended drinking sessions.
Not all the rough edges have been polished up. Painted bricks, raw concrete and hunks of bluestone add rugged charm, there’s a DJ booth to the rear of the room, and the bathrooms are wallpapered with vintage nudie pics, all gently implying that the Mill House is ready to party.
It’s not firing on all cylinders just yet, however. The crowd seems to swing between seething and subdued, and security on the door could lose the attitude. But the bar’s novel focus on all-American moonshine helps to smooth things out. Try the Freedom Blueberry Rye served on the rocks, or shoot back the charry Ole Smoky Harley Davidson version. Care is taken when crafting the cocktails, with ice hand-crushed to order for the Miss American Pie. A crowd-pleasing blend of Apple Pie Moonshine, Fireball Whisky, lemon and apple juice, it’s sweet, tart and fragrant with cinnamon, but a tad too cloying to order more than one.
If you’re here for the long haul, zero in on the summery jugs of sangria, or tap into the 20-strong beer list, including Feral Hop Hog, Hawthorn Pilsner and two-litre Young Henrys Growlers.
The kitchen is dishing out American-accented snacks and mains, such as burgers, fried chicken ribs and golden, molten-centred corn croquettes. Dabbed with garlicky squid-ink aioli and served with a rubble of salty popcorn, they’re reason enough to make a return visit.