If you’ve hit those big, bright, busy shopping centres a bit too hard, hide away for a while in one of the city’s secret spaces. From a basement cafe-bar to a boutique jeweller on the sixth floor of an office tower, here’s our latest batch of favourite Melbourne hidey-holes.
Wheeler Centre’s underground bar
Opposite the shopping and fast-food bustle at QV, in the bluestone basement of the Wheeler Centre, discover The Moat Bar & Cafe. This cosy subterranean space with eclectic decor, green plants and shelves full of books is perfect for pleasant escapes any time of day. Pop in for poached eggs and pide, take time out to read with coffee and cake, or relax over wine and slow-cooked lamb shoulder with friends.
The Music Gym
Wouldn’t it be great if you could exercise your musical abilities the same way you can exercise your body at a gym? A place with guitars, pianos and teachers ready for your creative workout, where you could pop in on your lunch break, after work or before shopping? Somewhere with flexible arrangements including pay-as-you-go, and three- or six-month membership so you can go hard with unlimited music lessons. Don’t dream it, do it! The Music Gym has it all, including singing classes. It’s in an unlikely location, in the Galleria shopping centre, so you can get a double dose of therapy: retail and musical.
The candle-lit whisky den
Looking for a bar with character after shopping at The Strand? Steps away, in a subterranean space of bare-brick walls and parquetry floors, Beneath Driver Lane wears Melbourne’s love for hidden laneway bars on its sleeve. Whisky dominates the classy collection of spirits, but you’ll also find less familiar cousins like absinthe and pisco. Cocktails are smart takes on mostly American classics, and include choose-your-own-adventure nitro martinis. Bites favour meat and cheese, like charcuterie and raclette toasties.
Find a cult jewellery maker in an obscure location
After years hiding underground in Campbell Arcade, cult jewellery store Corky Saint Clair has gone up in the world. To the Art Deco Century Building’s sixth floor in fact. Jeweller-proprietor Christopher Bril now has a lovely view down onto Swanston Street. His creations, and that of other clever Melbourne jewellery makers, are mostly sterling silver, sometimes with semi-precious stones. Unique, often quirky but always beautiful, they are displayed in this tiny boutique’s elegant cabinets among evocative items like antique photographic portraits.
The cheap eats hub in a Bourke Street basement
Inspired by Asia’s busy dining halls, the Paramount food court is one of Melbourne’s most underrated cheap eats hubs. Located basement level of The Paramount shopping centre and serviced-apartment complex, there are heaps of inexpensive and tasty eateries to choose from. They include Chine Express, Hokkaido Bento, Moo Tea, as well as Asia Unique, which has a huge menu and is open until 10pm every night. There are also some western-style options in this indoor courtyard, including Dmarco Espresso Bar.
The social enterprise in Melbourne Central
Want a bag that’s good for people, animals and the planet? Then make a beeline for Beekeeper Parade, tucked away on Melbourne Central’s lower-ground level. From backpacks and tote bags to wallets and toiletry bags, everything at this social enterprise is upcycled from textiles otherwise headed for landfill. They look smart, are 100% vegan, and every purchase helps to educate kids in Cambodia.