Bars and Restaurants in Melbourne, Australia

Bars and Restaurants in Melbourne, Australia

1. Above Board

The offering at Above Board is not just personalised singles events brunswick but personal. Sure, a chat with Lambert will help you determine if you’re after a classic or a signature cocktail but you’re also getting a little bit of his life story with every drink he dispenses from the bar that is the heart and control centre of this tiny bar. There are only a handful of seats, and all of them face the drinks action where Lambert is putting the art back in artisanal style.

2. Her Bar

There’s a lot going on at Her, Lonsdale Street’s new four-concept mega venue. The street-level space, simply titled Her Bar, sells itself as a “daytime” cocktail bar, although it slings French 75s and Dirty Gin Martinis until 3am. (If you’re an early bird, the doors swing open at 7am for pastries, lobster omelettes and Market Lane coffee.) It’s a snug spot that sits 80 punters indoors (although not too close together) with a seductive salon vibe think honey-toned walls, a rattan ceiling and a commanding zinc bar with fluted glass and timber liquor cabinets.

3. The Everleigh

Who could have guessed that in 2020 the Everleigh would only just be reaching the height of its powers? Nine years of brisk business and weighty awards, plus successful forays into bottling, books and even hand-cut ice have meant that its reign as king of the north is unchallenged and a tipple at this beautiful cocktail lounge is the very definition of putting your best drink forward in Melbourne.

4. Hope St Radio

A wine bar and digital radio station operated out of a creative arts precinct housed in a disused school. It doesn’t get more Melbourne than that. Hope St Radio is run out of Collingwood Yards and is run by power duo (and coincidentally friends who love great food and wine) Pete Baxter and Jack Shaw. The wine bar and radio station headquarters aims to bring the community together through championing local musicians, produce and natural wine. Punters can expect local DJs mixing vinyl all throughout the night, expansive outdoor communal tables and fire pits, a 60-strong wine list highlighting the best of the new-age natty stuff, and a seasonal, Italian-leaning menu helmed by Ellie Bouhadana.

5. Bar Margaux

Melbourne’s reigning bar barons Michael and Zara Madrusan are pros at recreating these tiny universes, first giving us golden age classiness at the Everleigh, then rowdy breakouts of song at rock’n’roll dive Heartbreaker. We’re burrowing underground at their Paris-via-New York brasserie Bar Margaux, a place where oysters are shucked, Champagne popped and steaks sizzled until the tiniest of hours.

6. Black Pearl

Melburnians never needed the succession of big international awards to know that the Black Pearl is where you go for a bloody good cocktail – though undoubtedly those accolades benefited the travellers who now flock to the bar as a checklist destination. Tash Conte’s family-run bar has been a beacon of excellence for 16 years now. Not content to sit pretty on tried-and-tested masterpieces, the list is always on the move, keeping step with moods and seasons.

7. Romeo Lane

Here you’ll find that perfect balance of comfort and class: all your cocktails come in beautiful cut glassware; Tom Waits is on the stereo, and on a chilly night they’ll fire up the open fireplace to turn the charm offensive up to 11. And we haven’t even got to the impeccable drinks list yet. Like all good hosts, these guys have a catalogue of recipes squirrelled away from former menus and the canon of classics, so all you need to do is list off some keywords and they’ll magic up something delicious.

8. Bar Liberty

To drink at Liberty is to revel in the best of all booze. The only rule about each drop here is that it must be a superlative example of its style. Whether it’s wine, cider, cocktails, whisky, vermouth or even housemade soda, every item on the long menu is carefully curated, the variety and quality on offer hard to overstate. You should eat here, too. Raw beef is diced and mixed with capers and Dijon for a velvety texture, ready to be scooped mouthward by crisps of dehydrated polenta and sweet caramelised onion.

9. Old Palm Liquor

Owners Almay Jordaan and Simon Denman are describing their East Brunswick wine bar spinoff, Old Palm Liquor, as a pub. We’ve never been to a pub that serves over 300 low-intervention and biodynamic wines alongside 12 tap beers and a super-slick menu cooked over coals with a South African inflection before, but we like it. The majority of the wine list, except for a literal handful of wines, are low-intervention wines that have either received extended skin contact, have been aged in amphora, have little to no sulphur added to the bottle, or are several of these things all at once. Confused? Don’t be. Each wine has been coded with its farming practices and processes so you’re not reaching for service every time you get to the end of a glass.

10. Gerald’s Bar

Gerald’s is and always has been bursting with personality: convivial, boisterous, eccentric, but at the same time, utterly approachable with a flawless soundtrack and a poster of a young Michael Caine watching over you. Sure, the wine list is a massive 200 bottles long, with a few bin ends, but the staff are helpful enough to decipher it for you. There are classic bottles from around the world sitting among the new, crazy, skin-contact wines the kids are quaffing these days. 

11. Beneath Driver Lane

If you like cocktails, whisky, blues, good service and eating Reuben sandwiches at 2am, Beneath Driver Lane is your basement of dreams. Occupying an old bank vault in the CBD, this singles events sydney has a Harry Potter feeling that’s rare in Melbourne. It’s a vision of rustic Victorian style: the brick arched booths, the walls cluttered with black and white photos, and the warm light from candles and low-hanging lamps are comfortable, the fit out and the sharp service to give this place a feeling that’s equal parts Melbourne, Chicago and Diagon Alley. 

12. Union Electric Bar

A party-starting bar, with a rooftop, smack in Chinatown – what business does Union Electric have being really, really, good? It’s common knowledge that most CBD venues with similar natural advantages are content with steadfast mediocrity, but not here. The bar champions fresh produce, each day pressing, juicing and infusing all manner of fruits, herbs and botanicals. The team give extra vivacity to cheeky tiki cocktails and quenching highballs, though on sticky days it’s difficult to beat the quench of rum or whisky simply served tall over fresh apple juice.

13. The Elysian

If recent history has taught us anything, it’s that the popular vote can lead us down dark and shadowy paths. Which is why it’s a relief to see that the people of Melbourne are still wielding their powers wisely, anointing the Elysian Whisky Bar their favourite place to drink for a second year running. Key to this speciality bar’s success is the painstakingly built a 350-strong backbar of rare and independently bottled whiskies. Each bottle has been hand selected, resulting in an eclectic collection full of one-offs you won’t find elsewhere in the city. 

14. Byrdi

There should be another word for what Byrdi is doing. Bar doesn’t quite cut it, despite the fact that dispensing booze is at the core of what it does. It seems more like some kind of lab where you get to play guinea pig to their scientist. The drinks, made and served by a fleet of staff swaddled in crushed linen, are highly original and highly delicious in equal parts. There’s so much exciting technique here, plus a strong sense of seasonality. Techniques commonly associated with kitchens are front and centre  fermenting, smoking, clarifying and the results are often thrilling.

15. Madame Brussels

This kitsch, cutesy rooftop promises a raucous garden party in the heart of the city. Decked out with AstroTurf, parasols and pastel-pretty timber furniture, this sky-high hub has long been a favourite for summer sessions that kick off in the afternoon and end after midnight. Flirty staff kitted out in butt-skimming tennis gear ferry pitchers of fruity cocktails around the terrace. The tongue-in-cheek drinks list doesn’t skimp on the double entendre, with plenty of mention of jugs, balls and oral pleasure. Yep. The Madame seems intent on making you blush, but chances are that rosy glow will be thanks to the sunshine and booze-sloshed cocktails.

The best restaurants in Melbourne

Victoria by Farmer’s Daughters

Love the Gippsland-themed fare at Farmer’s Daughters? Get a taste of the whole state at the team’s new venue in Fed Square. The sharing menu is a love letter to local farmers and producers, with dishes cooked over woodfire in the open kitchen. Flit across the countryside with verjus-drizzled Bannockburn chicken or Lakes Entrance grilled fish and caviar butter sauce. Stake out a spot on the all-weather terrace to take in the riverside views.

Otōto

If discreet fine dining with dramatic Japanese flair is on your wishlist, enter the world of Ototo. Dark and moody, lit by a rosy ribbon of light overhead, it’s tailor-made for clandestine catch-ups. Take your seat by the bar and watch as expert mixologists shake up custom cocktails. Indulge in seasonal set menus, rock oysters with ponzu, deluxe sashimi and fiery dishes fresh from the grill.

Freyja

Located in the historic Olderfleet building, Freyja feels like something truly novel. With a Nordic-approach to Aussie fine-dining, dishes are infused with the complex flavours of our native produce. The restaurant introduces Melburnians to Scandi gastronomy and you can expect unique flavour pairings that are beautifully executed. Think trout roe with waffles, smoked oysters dressed with buttermilk, juniper and Geraldton wax and fluffy fermented crispy potatoes. All paired with Nordic rum cocktails.

Archer’s Restaurant

Located in an intimate, futuristic space, Archer’s needs to go right to the top of your special occasion dining list. Beautiful beams of light glow warmly against the unique, vault-like interiors. And the menu is an ever-changing celebration of seasonal, local flavours. Don’t miss a trip up to the 15th floor for drinks at a neighbouring restaurant.

Bobbie Peels

A 113-year-old pub that’s been modernised in all the right ways. Family-owned pub Bobbie Peels is a North Melbourne neighbourhood gem worth discovering. Pub classics are in high supply and there’s a rotating specials menu. But hand-rolled fresh pasta is the star here. Try the silky pappardelle with beef and pork ragu. Or perhaps a vegan orecchiette with pistachio pesto. To drink there’s back-vintage wine and a large selection of beer, including five rotating taps of independent craft beer. 

Bar Bombay Yacht Club

A playful new offering from Daughter in Law chef Jessi Singh, this bar disrupts the notion that clubs are stuffy and exclusive. The staff periodically shower guests under a bubble gun. And cocktails span from fruit-topped tropical concoctions to the delightfully miniature $1 negronis at happy hour. A snacky sharing menu heroes modern Indian flavours. Try crab dum biryani with coconut sambal and the fresh, zingy balls of happiness.

Serai

Find a fiery new spot for traditional Filipino food, hidden in a laneway website . Grab a seat at the chef’s omakase table to watch your meal cooked over the open fire in front of your eyes. Pair colourful cocktails with dishes like kingfish sinuglaw and pork belly with smoked pineapple palapa.

Elchi

Traditional Indian cooking and Melbourne’s modern food scene collide in this stunning space. Elchi is in the former home of Press Club and maintains the restaurant’s elegant decor. Think giant gold lights and sleek leather booths. Dubbed the curry queen of Geelong, executive chef Manpreet Sekhon is elevating family recipes. Order a cocktail and try the gold leaf-coated chicken mussallem and the spice-soaked apple jalebi dessert.

Pearl Diver Cocktails and Oysters

Take a pre- or post-theatre foray into the French Quarter of New Orleans at Pearl Diver. This chic bar dishes up modern tropical cocktails and the freshest oysters from around Australia. Although cocktails and oysters are its bread and butter, Pearl Diver also has a full wine list and more to nibble on. The aptly-named ‘not oysters’ menu features bites like steak tartare and raw kingfish with pomegranate.

Grill Americano

The latest dining sensation from Chris Lucas’ empire is a Northern Italian-inspired steakhouse for the ages. Grill Americano boasts a marble bar, open kitchen and opulent decor, set to impress on any occasion. The pasta is handmade, the woodfire oven was hand built in Naples and the dessert menu includes tiramisu table service.

Di Stasio Pizzeria

The Italian masters behind Di Stasio Citta have made their first foray into pizzas with a new Roman-inspired venue in Carlton. Part art gallery, part pizzeria, the walls are splashed with neon-bright modern art pieces. Enjoy a spritz by the fountain in the sunny courtyard. Then head inside for the main event – woodfired pizzas and Italian snacks.

Nomad

Nomad’s food is inspired by travels through Spain, Morocco and the Middle East, but grounded in Australia’s fine local produce. Dishes are cooked with fire and smoke, think smoked mussels and wood-roasted eggplant escabeche. Add a side of burrata and fennel jam and mop it up with wattleseed za’atar flatbread.

Yakimono

A riot of colour and punchy flavours, Chris Lucas’ Yakimono is a high energy all-day eating house. Follow the neon signs into the Japanese-inspired eatery, reminiscent of Tokyo’s Izakaya bars. Enjoy flame-fired cooking and off-grill options like noodles and sushi. To drink, it’s sake and cocktails named after Tokyo neighbourhoods.

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