There are so many “top ten” lists on the internet it makes your head spin, even before you order a drink.
Top ten rooftop bars, top five hidden bars, best themed bars, gin bars, sophisticated bars, standing-room only bars.
Name a type of bar and you can probably find it in Melbourne.
So, I’ve trawled through the long list and and honed it down to my tried and tested favourites – from riverside to rooftop and creative cocktails to handcrafted beer.
From early in the morning until late at night Arbory Bar & Eatery, on the banks of the Yarra River, is Melbourne’s ‘go to’ bar. Meeting for a casual breakfast, lunch or dinner – go to Arbory; pre-theatre drinks – go to Arbory; long evening of drinks and snacks – go to Arbory. Built on a former railway platform at the back of Flinders Street Station (but surprisingly quiet), it’s 150 metres long and named for the canopy of plane trees shading the tables. In the warmer months (1 Oct-31 March), its more lively sister opens up on the river – Arbory Afloat – try one or both.
Loop Roof Cocktail Bar & Garden
However, my favourite bar is Loop Roof Cocktail Bar & Garden. It’s halfway down one of Melbourne’s fabulous laneways at the top end of Bourke Street, and you can see the exotic greenery tumbling down the walls as you approach. Once you get to the top of the stairs you’re greeted with an array of colours, foliage, skyline views and an impressive range of cocktails, beers and wines. There’s a substantial awning ready to roll out if the weather turns and plenty of heaters, so this is definitely an all season bar too.
Find the lift beside the Spaghetti House restaurant and you’ll be able to get up to the rooftop bar Madame Brussels, named after the infamous owner of Melbourne’s first brothel. Decked out in garden party style, it has to be seen to be believed – think pink walls, delicate garden furniture, fake grass and a menu including chicken sandwiches and Pimm’s punch. Often crowded later in the evening (especially if it’s cold and wet and everyone’s trying to get the covered seats) Madame Brussels is a great way to start your night out.
Imperial Hotel Rooftop Bar
I love the transformation of the Imperial Hotel Rooftop Bar into a Harry Potter-themed bar to coincide with the play running at the nearby Princess Theatre: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. As well as the main bar area there are six separate booths, each dressed out as Harry Potter shops, including an owlery and a wand store, which can be reserved for groups of 10+ people. On the drinks menu you’ll find butter beer and magical cocktails, and if you arrive during the long interval between Part 1 and Part 2 you might get to see some wizards and witches in full fancy dress.
At the top of the stairs before entering the Berlin Bar you’ll be greeted at the door with the question: do you want to sit in pre-1989 East Berlin or West Berlin? East Berlin has bright lighting, solid floors and a bunk bed doubles as seats for one table. West Berlin has low lighting, plush carpets and red velvet booths. The best part is that both bars have a long list of creative cocktails and comprehensive range of Australian gins to choose from.
You wouldn’t guess there’s a hive of production and a couple of fun bars behind the industrial warehouse doors lining North Street in Richmond. Close to Phillippa’s Bakery and Dukes Coffee Roasters there’s a tiny door leading into the Mountain Goat Brewery, which sits opposite artisan gin distillery, Brogan’s Way. Discover how gin is made on a distillery tour of Brogran’s Way or simply drop in for a gin at the bar. And there’s a huge range of ales and lagers to try at Mountain Goat Brewery bar, which also runs a brewery tour every Wednesday.