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Melbourne’s Best Bars

Melbournians are justifiably proud of their bar culture and thirsty citizens are never short of a place to drink. We noticed the city is becoming grungier in its dining habits, but drinking seems to have gone upmarket. Here are our top 10 picks for Melbourne bars, be they the high-glam, low brow or secret laneway variety.

The Everleigh

The Everleigh

EDV. 1 Malthouse Lane, Melbourne.

This cocktail bar with a whisky focus is hidden, fittingly, in a lane called Malthouse. EDV’s penchant for cocktails is balanced by its masculine decor; think jazz tunes, leather and polished mahogany. Bring your friends for a cocktail degustation dinner, a brave new territory where a five course food extravaganza meets and greets the very best of booze.

Izakaya Den. Basement  114 Russel Street, Melbourne
Notoriously difficult to find, descending into Izakaya Den can fill the uninitiated with nervous excitement , but never fear, what you’ll find here are friendly faces and a space devoted in equal parts to the art of Japanese eating and drinking. Note the performance art that goes on behind the open kitchen and bar, with the chefs and mixologists dancing around each other. Obviously, all drinks have a Japanese bent, from sake to imported beers, but the range is wide and there is something for all tastes.

The Everleigh. 1/150-156 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy

The Everleigh’s location, hidden so that only those looking for it will notice it, says a lot about its character. It’s a proper American-style cocktail bar of old, when drinks were bespoke and each glass was treated with courtesy. Candlelight glints off vintage chandeliers, well heeled patrons slide into mahogany booths and the air is filled with smooth jazz tunes that make you feel like you’re drinking in a golden age.

The Black Pearl. 304 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.

Cocktail powerhouse The Black Pearl is the place to visit if you’re looking for a classy bar where you can drink posh without having to maintain a ramrod-straight spine. Downstairs, drink beer or whisky from vintage ‘70s tankards. Upstairs, in The Attic, maroon-shirted waiters serve exciting cocktails in crystal cut Royal Doulton glassware. Table service makes The Black Pearl personalised and civilised, but on the weekends, the bar is swamped three-persons deep with patrons determined to have a knees-up good time, whatever their poison.

Kodiak Club. 272 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.

If you’re going to name a bar after a 500kg native American bear, you might as well have one represent. And the Kodiak Club does. Melbourne’s only bourbon bar is dominated by a wall-mounted Kodiak that watches over its patrons as they dig into all-American bar food. The space is warm and welcoming, much like a mountain lodge in a blizzard, and the bar is dominated by bourbon and rye whiskies, with a smattering of quality wines, beers and cocktails, plus some trashy Mexican beers for good measure.

The Kodiak Club

The Kodiak Club

Cookie. First Floor, 252 Swanston Street, Melbourne.

Any bar that describes itself as a “disco eating house and beer hall” is bound to make its patrons happy. Cookie somehow manages to fuse beer hall, cocktail bar and modern Thai restaurant with flair. The bar stocks a plethora of micro-brews and 350 different wines, plus, a hidden corner bar pours an endless stream of innovative cocktails. Cookie is smack-bang in the middle of the city, but transports you to a cooler plane, with its pastiche of French doors, Juliet balconies and manga inspired murals.

Red Spice Road QV. QV Melbourne, 31-37 Artemis Lane, Melbourne CBD.

Overlooking the hustle and bustle of Lonsdale Street, Red Spice Road QV may be more of a restaurant, but it does a cracking martini.  Sweet, sour or short, the cocktail menu is well-researched and the perfect side to the spicy cuisine of South East Asia. Take up a seat at one of their communal tables and enjoy a Red Spice mojito jugtail, the perfect complement to one of the restaurant’s banquet menus (either $60 or $75; with vegetarian options available).

Red Spice Road QV

Red Spice Road QV

Lily Blacks. 12 Meyers Place, Melbourne.

Lily Blacks is a high end gin joint and cocktail connoisseur’s dream that’s open till 3.00am, every night of the week.  The decor gives a little nod to the 1920s speakeasy, with its potted palms, a wooden bar and doilies under the ashtrays. Lily Blacks takes a sophisticated approach to booze – the classics are served with a twist and assembled using the freshest ingredients and a flair for drama. There is a generous list of wines by the glass and for drinkers who prefer a simpler brew, there are numerous beers and ciders on tap. We recommend lining your stomach with Lily’s bar snacks, like charcuteries and cheese platters, olives and brandy-soaked prunes.

Rooftop Bar. Level 7, Curtin House, 252 Swanston Street, Melbourne.

Curtin House. Seven floors up. There’s a bar on the rooftop. What more is there to say? This venue is unquestionably one of the best for an open-air drink that’s as good as the view. In summer, opening hours are extended, burgers, wraps and ice cream sandwiches are on the menu and you can pull up a deck chair and catch a movie. Don’t despair the winter months, that’s when the Rooftop Bar’s relationship with MissChu bears fruit – in the form of rice paper rolls and other Vietnamese goodies, that is.

The Waiting Room. Lobby, Crown Entertainment Complex, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank.

The Crown Towers lobby plays host to The Waiting Room, with its glamorous low lighting and mirrored jewel box interior. The bar has revived the sophisticated art of mixology, with cool cocktails, classic martinis and premium champagne the order of the day. Of course, the drinks have to share the limelight with Neil Perry’s impressive array of bar snacks and light meals.

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One of Melbourne’s most iconic restaurants: Cookie

You can’t call yourself a foodie in Melbourne if you haven’t been to Cookie. Lauded as one of Melbourne’s most iconic dining experiences, Cookie is a quirky little place, in the heart of the city.

It may not have received a Hat from The Age Good Food Guide but booking a table at Cookie is harder than getting into Harvard. It was so difficult, in fact, that I booked a table for 5.30pm. On a Sunday. Feeling like I had gone into early retirement, I arrived at the Swanston Street destination as the sun was just beginning to set. Cookie is located on the first floor of a renovated 1920s building known as Curtin House, with sister venues’ The Toff and Choo Choos’ just upstairs.

Cookie’s eating house

Rather than walking into an empty restaurant, I was surprised to see large groups of tables excitedly flicking through menus, tossing around options and giggling to one another. Clearly, there are a few small prices you pay to experience one of Melbourne’s most sought-after locations. Partitioned off into sections, Cookie somehow manages to combine a disco, eating house and beer hall in the one space. Unlike the beer hall, the eating house is open and spacious. The walls are lined with old photographs of Swanston Street and inner city Melbourne and the tables are set with white lace doilies and floral crockery. Large Victorian windows open out onto Swanston Street, while an open bar runs along the opposite wall, stocking over 350 wines, many of which can be ordered by the glass.

Chef Karen Batson (who also heads the kitchen at Choo Choo’s and Prahran’s Colonel Tan’s) has created a modern Thai menu that matches well to a long dinner with family or friends. While it is nice for two, a night at Cookie is far more fun with a big group –when you can share a range of dishes.  Standout dishes include rice noodle rolls with bamboo shoots, prawns and pickled chilli soy, drunken noodles with minced pork and green chillies and and deep fried snapper with bok choi tamarind and crispy shallots. In keeping with the kitsch theme, at the end of our meal the bill is delivered in a vintage children’s book, a great touch.

Childhood nostalgia, machismo, plus a dash of Melbourne eccentricism: this sums up the atmosphere at Melbourne sweetheart, Cookie.

Anna Lisle

Cookie on Urbanspoon

Read more about Cookie here

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