The temperature is dropping so we’ve created a list of some of Melbourne’s best subterranean destinations for you shop, drink, dine and hang in during the cooler months.
Find an almost unmarked door on the corner of Russell and Little Collins streets, and descend the stairs in to a Tokyo-inspired basement to unearth Izakaya Den. Within this long room of cement and wood, you can share exquisite Japanese tasting plates and select from an extensive drink menu—the service here is impeccable, the experience is delightful.
Located in a sub-basement venue on Bond Street (just off Flinders Street), Maha is renowned Melbourne chef Shane Delia’s flagship venue. Expect delicious, full flavoured Middle Eastern food with Mediterranean influences like you’ve never tasted before.
Situated in the basement of the Wheeler Centre, The Moat café offers coffee in the morning and wine at night, alongside a European inspired menu. Participate in the book exchange program while you’re there—bring a good book in and swap it for another from the communal book case.
Sweatshop is a New York styled basement bar with background sounds celebrating the best of 80s and 90s pop and hip-hop. The friendly counter service will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a way cooler version of Cheers, with a vast selection of local beers, bourbon whiskey and cocktails.
Melbourne’s newest jazz joint, Bird’s Basement, is a proud little sister to one of the world’s most iconic jazz clubs, Birdland New York. This underground speakeasy stages the past, present and future of the scene over two shows each night. Book a table at 7.45pm for dinner, or head on down at 10pm for music and drinks only, baby.
Harley House is a warm, moodily lit bar, eatery and art space. Head underground Collins Street (enter via a laneway off Exhibition Street) to find a New York inspired subterranean space, serving Peruvian share food with an impressive cocktail and drinks list to match.
Descend the stairs where Flinders Street meets Degraves to find charming retail stores such as The Cat’s Meow and Corky Saint Clair; a dedicated zine shop; new and used hip-hop from Wax Museum; and the small yet mighty, Cup of Truth Coffee Bar. There’s also The Dirty Dozen, an exhibition of display cases featuring the work of Melbourne artists.
Basement Discs is a music lovers ‘Aladdin’s cave’ filled with an extraordinary range of music on CD, DVD and the elusive, but much cherished, vinyl. Stocking rock, pop, classical, jazz, blues, folk and world music, the staff are welcoming, passionate and knowledgeable. Try and catch one of the live in-store gigs if you can.
Located in a basement on Flinders Lane, this little gem is hard to find, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the gorgeous pieces on offer when you do. Representing over 50 Australian artists and designers, e.g.etal sells a constantly evolving selection of contemporary jewellery, including rings, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, cufflinks and brooches.
fortyfivedownstairs is a lower level space on Flinders Lane showcasing independent visual art, theatre, dance and music. This month, there are three free exhibitions on drawings and paintings (open Tuesday to Saturday) and two theatre productions to check out.
TRAPT Bar and Escape Room
Take your friends to TRAPT, an exciting, interactive themed multi-room escape venue. Located in a heritage building basement, your group has just 45 minutes to find clues and solve puzzles to escape before time runs out! You can then move on to the bar to enjoy a well-earned drink afterward.
For a good dose of live music, look no further than 170 Russell (formerly Billboards the Venue). Upcoming gigs in this below ground venue include Gang of Youths, Millencolin and Melbourne favourites, The Drones. For more live music underground, visit Max Watt’s (formerly Hi Fi Bar), conveniently located in the heart of the city on Swanston Street.
The weather may be cooling down outside, but these underground locations promise to bring the heat!