It might not sound like much but Ugly Duckling is actually a heavenly swan of a bar, at the slightly grungy end of Swan Street. It has that Manhattan-meets-Montauk industrial look we got familiar with on HBO before the GFC hit, with a beautiful atrium of whitewashed brick and greenery, with trees growing right up into the high glass ceiling.
The heritage-style space has been stripped back to super minimalist levels, leaving all the punch, colour and theatrics for the cocktails, which they absolutely nail. Settle in because it’s a long list. You’ve got crowd pleasers in the ‘Tall, Chilled, And Swizzled’, ‘Short, Sour, and Punchy’, ‘Classic Cocktails’, and ‘Old Favourites’ categories, but for best results dive headfirst into the drinks under the ‘Rethought, Reworked’ heading. The Pavlova Fizz is a burst of sour apple flavour, with a crisp, burnt sugar froth topping a mix of gin, sour apple liqueur, kiwifruit syrup, egg white, lime juice, and orange bitters.
The cocktail list here might be the star, but their wine list is no slacker. The 2015 Save Our Souls sangiovese from the Yarra Valley is rich with heavy, black cherry flavours, and is exactly what you need to fortify you after you clock off for the day. For best results, don’t go hungry. Bar snacks like the pork and pistachio terrine are big on flavour and small on serves.