What’s not to love about Melbourne? The weather’s nice and it’s right on the beach; its population is cosmopolitan and laid back; it’s got a top arts scene, and some of the best gourmet restaurants and characterful bars in the southern hemisphere.
It’s also 40 degrees down here. Here’s where you can get a cold one:
Bored of minimalist Conran-style bars? Fancy something a little dog-eared? Prudence (368 Victoria St, North Melbourne) has a homely clutter of books, dim lamps, board games, heavy curtains, wooden booths, maps, trinkets from the tropics, and black-and-white movies on the tiny bar-side TV. It feels a little like a colonial study or smoking room, or maybe your adventurous grandpa’s attic. The barkeep will mix you whatever you want, even if it’s a flaming absinthe.
The name might not be as original as the venue, but Rooftop Bar (Top floor, Curtin House, 252 Swanston St, Melbourne) does what it says on the tin. Sitting six floors up on the roof of the Curtin building, a bar and arts mecca, the space overlooked by soaring office blocks has been put to great use: Movies, deckchairs, table footie and DJ decks. The perfect place to watch the sun go down after a hard day’s grind.
Located in the same building as Cookie (more on that later) and the Rooftop Bar, The Toff In Town (2nd Floor, Curtin House, 252 Swanston St, Melbourne) is their darker, more glamorous cousin. Grab one of the locomotive carriage-like booths, where the blinds can be lowered for privacy, and ring the buzzer next to your table for service. Or snag a place on the balcony overlooking Swanston Street if the sun’s still up. Live music adds to the atmosphere, and some notable names have appeared here like Andrew W.K, Eliza Doolittle and Temper Trap.
Ponyfish Island (Southgate Footbridge, Melbourne) is an oasis surrounded by water. Located in the middle of the Yarra across from Southbank underneath a footbridge, this floating pub’s terrace gets rammed after work and the throng stays till gone midnight. Cocktails are served in recycled jam jars, and you sit on shipping palettes.
Aussies love a good drink, but they also appreciate good tucker and Melbourne is a fantastic food destination. Check out these top restos:
Cutler & Co (55-57 Gertrude St, Fitzroy) is one of F1-SD’s preferred date places. The frontage is deceiving; what looks like a warehouse entrance opens into a slick, dark, sophisticated bar and dining room filled with 20/30something trendsetters. In fact, it’s an old metal works factory. The menu includes a selection of oysters, bonito sashimi with sorrel cucumber and pureed avocado cold smoked beef with scallop and egg-yolk, rack of roast pork marinated in cucumber and plum, and Earl Grey ice cream. If you want to try something different, order the fois gras cigars.
The more casual cousin of the multi award-winning Vue de Monde, Bistro Vue (430 Little Collins St, Melbourne) is a rustic French-inspired bistro situated in the historic Normandy Chambers, once a home to British barristers. You’ve got a wine list that looks like it’s from a new world Hotel de Paris, perfect for washing down moonlight flat oysters, duck Gascony salad and simple classics like onion soup, well-marbled Wagyu steak-frites, cassoulet, and rabbit confit. Just like mother used to make, if your mum has a Michelin-star.
Thai restaurant meets beer hall meets disco, Cookie (1st floor, Curtin House, 252 Swanston St, Melbourne) is a kitsch and bustling CBD hangout with tasty fusion bites, fabulous Australian and Kiwi wines and 85 imported beers, 25 of which have come all the way from Belgium. A perfect accompaniment to mussels steamed with ginger, lime lemongrass, chili and coriander, and 16,000km from Spa-Francorchamps.
Cutler & Co.
With the season kicking off in Melbourne, you’ll be in the mood to party. Here’s where you might find a few F1 drivers spraying champagne this Sunday night:
Boutique (134 Greville St, Prahran) is Melbourne’s celebrity hang-out par excellence. Paris and Kylie count themselves as regulars and you won’t be able to move for paddock personnel after the race. Inside you’ll find animal-print sofas, mod lamps, and a sprung-wood dance floor. The VIP area is a large two-room affair. Friday night is 80s night, and on Sunday it opens up especially for GP VIPs.
With its corridor decorated like a Bambi woodland scene directed by Diane von Fürstenberg, and lush lounge booths that are Medici meets Manhatten, Pretty Please (61 Fitzroy St, St Kilda) is a sophisticated, fresh venue and a visual delight. Music leans towards indie and disco, and a privileged crowd of twentysomethings.
Melbourne’s house music manor is Bar 161 (161 High St, Prahran). Retro glam styling is reflected in period style carpets, 70s porno wallpaper, circular light bulbs and a curved bar and furnishings. The flashing dance floor is the piece de resistance – it all looks a bit like Dirk Diggler’s front room. It’s a bit of a slow burner, though, so aim to arrive after 1am. After 2am, the queues become impenetrably long.