Listings and reviews (8)
On a dizzly evening with cobblestones covered in crunchy red leaves, the sign for the Rose Hotel has that ‘welcome, stranger’ kind of vibe that makes it impossible to resist. Sure, it sounds more British pub than Australian hotel, but thanks to Melbourne's famously recalcitrant weather it works a treat. Inside, the pub’s interior is exactly what you are expecting - dark brickwork, vintage sports memorabilia, a chalkboard with the day’s specials, and smiley bar staff having a chat to some locals. It’s practiced at being cosy and comfortable and here’s why: this Melbourne gem has graced the corner of Napier Street, Fitzroy for over 130 years. The charming ‘old Britannia’ style is the result of a recentish makeover, which also gifted the centenarian pub a little extra Melbourne magic – up a flight of stairs is the Harry & Frankie wine bar, the northside arm of the popular Port Melbourne haunt. The Harry & Frankie cherry atop the Rose Hotel comes courtesy of new owners Tom Hogan and John Tennent, who took over the venue in 2015. Named after John’s eldest son, Harry, and Tom’s youngest daughter, Frankie; the wine bar breathed new energy into a local that was in danger of becoming ‘just another sports pub’. Upstairs things are a far cry from the pint’n’parma charm below. Harry & Frankie is both a cellar door and a modern wine bar; offering up an impressive 400+ bottles, and a tapas menu to boot. The day you want to visit is Wednesday, when their urban cellar door offers free tas
Striding down Toorak Road you might just miss it – the renovated terrace home looks like the fancy patio of a cashed-up local. But those who do double back to find a seat in the tidy, tree-draped courtyard of Shadowboxer may find it very hard to leave. This venue isn’t dancing in the dark in any sense. It’s headed up with confidence by three Southside stalwarts with a nose for what the locals like: Michael Thom (Lucky Coq, Naked For Satan), Luke Thompson (Lucky Coq, Borsch Vodka and Tears) and Nick Aitken (Borsch, Vodka & Tears). Interiors are by Collingwood studio Fiona Lynch, and reflects the luxe Toorak aesthetic with light and bright custom-made interiors that are softened with cottage-garden details. By afternoon, you can soak up the sun and an aperitivo in the courtyard, with couple seating lined with planted rows of fresh rosemary. By night, you can move inside to the dining area and settle into bottles and mains, with larger table settings for the more serious diners. Food and drinks have a distinctly Antipodean flavour. Their Local Spritz, for example, swaps out the standard Campari or Aperol for the Adelaide-made Applewood Red Okar, an Australian liquor with flavours of native riberry, lemon myrtle, cassia bark and licorice root. Paired with a sparkling blanc de blanc in place of the usual sweet prosecco, it’s a refreshing and savoury alternative to the classic. When you’re ready for something heavier, their Antipodes Gin Martini is expensive at $24 but worth the ou
Roald Dahl’s character of Henry Sugar was a magic man. He taught himself to see through walls, guess playing cards, cheat the system at casinos, and made a life out of turning some pretty fancy tricks. An apt moniker, therefore, to give Carlton’s latest cocktail and wine bar. It’s at the quiet end of Carlton’s Rathdowne Street, and it looks every bit the slick suburban wine bar – gold lettering, exposed brick, statement lighting – but the midas touch of the people behind it is where the magic comes from. This is the newest venture for ex-Cookie barman Daniel Mason and chef Michael Baker. Initially, it was launched as a luxe dessert and cocktail bar, but quickly evolved to loop in food and wine. And thank goodness for that. The food borrows from a grab bag of cultural influences. Eastern European vibes are strong with the crispy confit duck pierogi and a dense smoked cobria fish on a beetroot remoulade; Cookie’s Asian flavours shine through in a tofu tartare and sesame roast pumpkin with black rice. But the hero dish has to be the grilled octopus. Spanish sobrasada sausage lends punch and weight to the tender cephalopod, which is blackened and spiced, finished off with a fennel emulsion, squid ink, and tangy witlof. On the dessert front they’re shoehorning tried-and-true flavours into some pretty out-there formats. The crowd favourite on our visit is a bizarre parmesan ice cream paired with apricots in a vanilla syrup, but Baker switches up his ice cream creations regularly, s
Arbory Bar and Eatery
This massive outdoor eatery and beer garden sandwiched between two Melbourne icons (the Yarra River and Flinders Street Station) stretches for 120 metres along the river bank and is officially Melbourne’s longest bar. They’ve got Espresso Martinis and Aperol Spritz on tap for quick-fire service so you can spend more time kicking back and less queueing, otherwise the juicy tang and fresh kick in the Tommy’s Watermelon Margarita is a just reward for your patience. Swap your rosé tinted glasses for the orange variety, specifically a bottle of the 2011 Pheasant Tears Katheti from the Georgian Republic. Just when you thought your summertime tableau couldn’t get better, a cart of frozen boozy popsicles wheels by and you add a peach prosecco Bellini icypole to your tab. Bring on the heat wave, Melbourne: the Arbory has got this.
Go Go Bar
Subterranean Go Go Bar is the little sister to upstairs restaurant Chin Chin, and like most younger siblings, is much cooler than you. We’re talking super-hip bar staff, great music, neon signs – Melbourne at its finest, which means it’s underground, crazy popular and certainly not somewhere that cares for Pimms in the sunshine. Standout cocktails are the Thai Basil, a bracing concoction of Thai basil, gin, lemon, chartreuse, and pepper syrup; and the more complex and tangy Candied Ginger, with preserved ginger-infused Japanese whisky, lemon, honey, aromatic bitters, egg white, and peated whisky for a double dose of the good stuff. Asian beers like Shiki, Singha, Chang and Asahi are a perfect match for a spicy menu that goes beyond bar snacks into proper sit-down options. Start with a kingfish ceviche and then get serious with the braised duck Red Curry.
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.
Dingo's Collingwood might just have conjured up a whole new theme: Let's call it High-end Suburbia. Wait, no: Gumleaf Chic. You need to imagine Jenny Kee and Slim Dusty got together one night over a couple of tinnies and decided to open a bar – that’s what we’re looking at here. 'It would need colour', says Jenny. 'And a bloke’s back shed feel', says Slim. A few cans of aqua paint and some sprigs of native flowers in a Melbourne-Bitter-can-vase later and you have Dingo's. This place nails Melbourne’s Northside vibe: weird, welcoming, and completely original. It's is just near the corner of Johnston and Smith Streets, and was once an old grocery store. Thanks to its past life hosting aisles of food the bar is long and spacious, with plenty of big group tables and...wait, is that a dance floor? Yes, my friend. That’s a strobe-lit, mirror-ball-strung, black-walled dance floor. Very blue light disco circa 1982. Staying on theme, the cocktail list is more Aussie than a busted plugger: you’ve got the Passiona, Big Pineapple, Hawaiian Shirt, Old Gum Tree, and Blood Orange Margarita. The first three drinks are light and fruity. The Passiona mixes passionfruit, Passion Pop and light rum, bringing back memories of the childhood summers and questionable teenage decisions. Similar story for the Big Pineapple with pineapple syrup, fresh lime, and East Eu Apricot (yes, the retro liquor you used to pilfer from your parent’s drinks cabinet.) The Hawaiian Shirt is the standout – West Winds
Melbourne suffers a major identity problem once the warm weather hits. The cosy bars that housed you through rainy winter nights with whiskeys and bottomless glasses of pinot are just not suited to Melbourne’s hot summers. So, where to now? The answer is Montereys on Chapel Street. It's open, sunny, and oh-so-fresh and is providing a dose of polish to an untapped block on the South Yarra strip. Welcome to your new summer hang out. Like the hidden seafood shack of your wildest dreams, Montereys is all soaring ceilings and wooden finishes. The white-washed walls are dotted with nautical curios, from mounted trout to vintage fishing nets, and the bar is a sturdy, old-timey number. Nautical themes can often equal corny, but Montereys is more Hamptons than hokey fish shack. Kelly Dunn and Mark Catsburg of Leonard's House of Love are the real-life Ma and Pa duo behind this new restaurant and bar, which was conceived during the couple’s recent trip to the States, and they've brought those seaside town vibes back with them. A menu filled with oysters, ceviche and Maine lobster rolls has the makings of a long, leisurely, lunch waiting to happen - all you need to do is pull the trigger. The Maine Lobster roll with butter and chives is melt-in-your mouth good, and with two chunky brioche rolls crammed with creamy lobster meat and served with house-made chips and pickles it's a sizeable meal. Or if you only need a snack the kingfish ceviche with calamari and corn is bright and tangy. The