When you’re in one of the world’s best bar towns, it’s tough to keep up. We’ve done the hard work of finding the not-to-be-missed newer arrivals: over to you on the good times.
Joseph Abboud, the chef and restaurateur behind Rumi and The Moor’s Head, added Bar Saracen to his portfolio in February. Named after the Arabs who fought the Christians during the Crusades, this Punch Lane restaurant-bar’s food favours Lebanon. Designed for sharing, the menu is dominated by 18 mezzes, including clever takes on borek and kofta. Try them with arak, an aniseed spirit that’s similar to ouzo.
The owners of the cult Meyers Lane upstairs pasta bar, the Italian Waiters Club, have just opened Bar Carlo on the former site of the old Meyer Place bar. Named after the owner family’s grandfather Carlo, and run by granddaughter Alana, this Northern Italian-style bar and eatery is open from 7am weekdays for early birds seeking a caffiene fix and a pastry or panini. Night owls are directed towards the exclusively stocked Leone aperitivo (like an Aperol or Campari), Venetian cicchetti-style snacks and all-Italian wine list.
The bad news is that Hosier Lane stalwart Misty is no more. The good news is Bar Tini is now in residence, courtesy of the MoVida guys no less. It’s inspired by Spain’s little neighbourhood shop-bar combos called bodegas, so you can get goodies to go or settle in. Sidle up to the oak-trimmed bar and contemplate the list of Iberian wines, Spanish-influenced cocktails and the blackboard menu of tapas. Maybe a glass of cava with some prawns or mussels cooked with a splash of sherry?
Sydney’s Viking-themed restaurant-bar has proved so popular that they’ve brought an outpost down south. Named after Thor’s mighty hammer, Mjolner Melbourne gives you the chance to drink mead out of a horn. Other tipples include Scandinavian-influenced cocktails and numerous whiskies. Food is suitably meaty, all enjoyed among tasteful Norse-themed decor. Skol!
Nodding to Manhattan’s Natural History Museum and Mad Men-style power dining, this CBD grill and bar is turning heads. The highlight of Natural History’s fit-out is $25,000 worth of taxidermied animals, presented in old-fashioned museum-style dioramas. That’s your cue to go wild with a menu that includes 1kg steaks, shrimp cocktails, natural wine and unpasteurised beer. If you’re feeling Don Draper-level daring, ask the waiter about the three martini lunch.
Beneath Driver Lane
Housed in a subterranean space that was once an old bank vault, Beneath Driver Lane wears Melbourne’s love for hidden laneway bars on its sleeve. Whiskey dominates the classy collection of spirits, and there’s also strong showing of gin, rum and tequila/mezcal selection. Cocktails are smart takes on mostly American classics, and include choose-your-own-adventure martinis. Bites favour meat and cheese, like charcuterie, foie gras parfait and a three-cheese toastie with Ardbeg whiskey bechamel. Drop by Friday nights for their regular Blues in the Basement performances featuring local talent such as Victor Cripes, Rattlin’ Bones Blackwood and T.K Reeve.
Prince Alfred Rooftop and Bar
A favourite Melbourne Uni watering hole has been transformed into the Prince Alfred Rooftop and Bar. It’s fancier than before, with an all-new interior and two kitchens. One serves slightly posh pub classics, the other hosts rotating takeovers by the likes of Mr Burger and Belles Hot Chicken. Don’t worry, there are plenty of student-friendly specials, like Tuesday’s $15 parmas and bottomless pancakes and mimosas on Sundays.
Union Electric’s rooftop bar
Hot Chinatown bar Union Electric has added a rooftop garden to its temptations at 13 Heffernan Lane. Unlike downstair’s mod-tiki rum focus, this new space is about gin, with 300 local and international offerings on the cards. Kick back beside the palm tree and Australian botanicals – planted here because they’re integral to the distinctly local gins on offer.