Inside Stomping Ground Brewery in Collingwood
Carmen ZammitInside Stomping Ground Brewery in Collingwood

Time Out Food & Drink Awards 2022: Best Casual Drinking Venue

Here is the winner of Best Casual Drinking Venue in the Time Out Melbourne Food & Drink Awards 2022

By Time Out in partnership with Tyro

You could call Time Out’s gong for the city’s best casual drinking venue the all-rounder award. Or the 'not a cocktail bar or wine bar' award.

You want a better definition? What we’re celebrating here are the places where you could take your 20 closest mates or the entire HR department from work and everyone would be happy. We’re talking lists that deliver solid work on the cocktail front, a choice of wines we actually want to drink and a good showing for the craft beer or cider aficionado in your life (we’ll even extend the definition to non-alcoholic options; because 2022). It’s a broad church that sums up the beautifully democratic nature of Melbourne’s drinking choices.

Pubs and the pub-adjacent slot neatly into this category. A place like the Marquis of Lorne or the Builder’s Arms, both of which reimagine the nineteenth-century pub for a thoroughly modern audience (hello, craft tinnies and skin contact wines). Or the Espy, which has been gussied into peak glamour without losing its heart and soul. Or Bar Romantica, which keeps itself nice despite staying up late.

Casual drinking is all about community, as proven adroitly by the sprawling Stomping Ground beer hall, a party welcoming kids, dogs and all comers. But it can also take those qualities and scale them down into the bijou charmers Caretaker’s Cottage and Music Room.

And showing that our love affair with rooftop drinking will not be cooling down anytime soon, we have Runner Up proving that Collingwood is quite literally on the up, and Johnny’s Green Room showing it’s possible to recreate the Amalfi coast two floors up in Carlton. So whatever your drinking bent, go forth, imbibe, and enjoy.

Here is the winner of Best Wine Bar.
Here is the winner of Best Cocktail Bar.

Here is the winner of Best Casual Dining Restaurant.

Return to the awards results page.

in partnership with

And the winner is...

  • Cocktail bars
  • Melbourne

The real estate – a button-cute bluestone bolthole behind a Wesleyan church in the heart of the CBD – is pure wow. But Caretaker’s Cottage followed that up with an all-killer, no-filler recipe of excellent drinks, music and snacks in an environment a lot like a British pub shrunk down to a boutique scale. A bit like a house party at your cool older friend’s place (you know, the one with really good taste in… everything), this is the answer to all sorts of questions (for example: what is Time Out’s Best Casual Drinking Venue of the year?).

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  • Italian
  • Brunswick East
  • price 2 of 4

Romance isn’t dead, and neither is Romantica. Café Romantica, the legendary 24-hour pizza parlour-slash-dive-bar that closed after 30 years to much sadness, is reborn as an inviting late-night wine bar and restaurant. Gone are the unforgiving fluorescent lights, laminate tables and $5 home brews, supplanted by candles, deep crimson booths and $28 bottles of sour ale. The pool table has been allowed to stay, as have the terrazzo floors, cleverly recontextualised to feel retro-European chic under a new curved oak bar, art deco lights and bentwood chairs. More importantly, the pizza oven has also been granted amnesty, now producing Neapolitan-style slices with puffy crusts and floppy centres. 

  • Fitzroy

Part of Andrew McConnell’s Trader House group, the Builders Arms is one of the more low-key venues in the Melbourne-only collection. You might head further up Gertrude Street to Cutler and Co for a finer-dine date night, or to Marion for a wine-focused long lunch; the Cumulus twins in the CBD are otherwise perfect for a business bite. But the front bar of the Builders Arms still feels like the neighbourhood boozer it has been since 1853. It retains the historic shoulder-height yellow tiles now teamed with a simple dark wood floor and Art Deco-inspired hanging globes.

  • Pubs
  • St Kilda

In music, the list of cover versions that are better than the original is strikingly short, but those on the list tend to be a radical reinterpretation rather than a tepid rehash. The old Hotel Esplanade wore its shabbiness and grunge proudly, like a tattered T-shirt of a favourite band, but the team at Sand Hill Road (Garden State, Prahran Hotel) did more than just give the place a lick of paint when it took over in 2017. The old Main Bar seemed to turn its back to the sunny seaside location where it has stood grandly since 1878, whereas the new bar feels like a permanent summer garden party with a young crowd queuing around the block to get in in the warmer weather.

  • Carlton

On a sunny Saturday evening, Johnny’s Green room is heaving. The rooftop bar at Carlton’s King & Godfrey adds a new element to this iconic Lygon Street business. After being closed for rennos for over three years, the decades-old gourmet purveyor is finally back, offering café service, deli goods and a great selection of European and local wines to take away on the ground floor. But up the lifts you’ll find a big and bright patio bar serving beer, wine, cocktails and snacks. From this lofty position, Carlton is snapping back at the rooftop bar explosion in the CBD and Fitzroy, proving that Melbourne’s original hospitality precinct can do anything the city can do, too. 

  • Fitzroy

On a Sunday evening the Marquis of Lorne is, as usual, pumping. This is ground zero for Fitzroy hipster pubdom, and Fitzroy is ground zero for said scene in all Australia – if not the world. To be at the epicentre here is no mean feat, and after years on top, the MoL still holds its position as master and commander. Rather than the standard sprawling pub layout, the Marquis is vertical, with the boisterous public bar on the ground floor, the homey dining room and kitchen up the stairs and above that a small rooftop terrace with its own bar that serves easy-going craft tinnies and a couple of simple cocktails.

  • Clubs
  • House, disco and techno
  • Melbourne

Enter Lonsdale Street's four-storey behemoth Her and make your way up the moody internal staircase; follow the technicolour strip lighting to level one where you’ll find the simply titled 'Music Room' behind a soundproof door. Save your D&M's for this side of the threshold, because on the other, the focus is solely on the soundwaves coming out of one of the city's most impressive audio setups. Inspired by the listening bars of Japan and Europe – much like Brunswick’s Waxflower – this intimate space is somewhere to lounge and drink while listening to your favourite DJs journey through their vinyl collections.

  • Collingwood

Stepping inside this casual drinking spot is like being in a sleeker version of your creative mate’s sharehouse full of random artwork, reclaimed vintage furniture and custom-made pieces, and stacks of house plants. The eclectic and laid-back feel marries well with the Collingwood Yards ethos. Downstairs, you’ll find some minimalist and clean art spaces run by well-established artists. But at Runner Up, it feels like the younger creatives have taken over and made this rooftop their own.

  • Breweries
  • Collingwood

“Love all, serve all” is the motto of the once-ubiquitous Hard Rock Cafes, but it has found its modern incarnation in the rambunctious Stomping Ground beer hall. Inspired by the cavernous European beer halls, but reimagined as a community hub, on any given night you will find the converted warehouse packed with beer lovers and dog lovers, trestle tables jammed full of families and couples huddled in a corner booth. The racks at the front door will be overflowing with bikes, locals will be ducking in to grab some takeaway and the 30-odd taps will be doing some serious business.


  • Cocktail bars
  • Southbank

On the Arts Centre-side of Southbank, you'll notice a huge, floating cornucopia of Australian spirits, produce, and good times. This is Yarra Botanica, a pontoon bar tucked situated on the banks of the Yarra River. This grown-up floating venue combines the novelty of aquatic hotspots like Ponyfish Island and Arbory Afloat with a conscious approach to home-grown ingredients. The decor is upmarket, too. Instead of bright coloured market umbrellas, find natural materials paired with timeless, muted hues. The name 'Botanica' represents the bar's surrounding flora – live herbs that can also be used as drink garnishes.

Who won the People's Choice awards?

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