From secret speakeasies and industrial breweries to sleek wine bars and fiery Latin pop-ups, Melbourne’s never-ending late-night list is one that never disappoints. Next time you’re heading out for a cocktail (or two) take inspiration from one of these trendy hangouts. Here are our top picks of 2018.
Equal parts humble and sophisticated, laneway watering hole Bar Americano is acing the small bar game. Compact yet spacious and adorned with dark-wood and mid-century features, Bar Americano is known for their commitment to the preservation and celebration of classic cocktails. With a regularly changing menu, you can also purchase their pre-bottled negroni, americano and amaro americano to enjoy at home.
20 Presgrave Pl, Melbourne
Harlow – a flavour-packed, good-time pub – is set to open in Richmond this month, with a diverse range of spaces to drink, dine and socialise. Taking over what was the Great Britain Hotel, complete with a basement bar and dining area, courtyard, deck and intimate alcoves, Harlow has a place for everyone, whether it’s a girl’s night out, date night, group get together or even Sunday lunch with the family and four-legged friends. Music will continue to be at the soul of the pub, with an eclectic soundtrack that sets the scene for the whole experience, alongside DJ sets and live music on Friday and Saturday nights.
447 Church St, Richmond
Aussie music legends Peking Duck have just dropped their latest project – and it isn't a new single. The electronic music duo have opened Talk To Me, South Yarra's newest bar and late-night haunt. Occupying the old Less Than Zero space, the intimate venue has an American-Asian influence that can be seen through the fit-out, cocktail offering and food menu.
153 Commercial Road, South Yarra
Pulling into port with a brand new look, Captain Baxter has raised his sails and ready to cast off for a long summer. Boasting crisp white and blue interiors and a seafood-focussed menu, this St Kilda venue is set to be the number one hangout over the warmer months. The views across Port Phillip Bay are enviable, and best witnessed with a cocktail in hand – may we suggest a fresh, greeny and fruit Green Bounty or a light, zesty and smoky Highland Breeze.
St Kilda Sea Baths, 10/10-18 Jacka Boulevard, St Kilda
Delivering quality cocktails and service, Ends & Means is the newest drinking spot in Fitzroy. The bar is heavily focussed on sustainability – they adopt all low-waste practices – and serve hand-crafted cocktails, environmentally-conscious wines and independent, locally-produced craft beers. Cosy and quaint, the intimate setting and moreish menu makes it incredibly hard to leave. This has late night session written all over it.
79 Gertrude St, Fitzroy
Every summer, something magical happens by the Yarra River. As the sun sets low over the water, revellers come out to play on-board Arbory Afloat. A temporary bar inspired by the majestic beauty of the Cinque Terre, here you can sip on Aperol Spritz amongst fragrant citrus trees with an unrivalled view across the city’s glimmering cityscape. After all, who needs Europe, when you’ve got Melbourne?
Northbank Yarra River, Melbourne
At last, the Docklands is hitting its stride. And what better way to herald its long-awaited arrival than the opening of a sleek new sustainable craft brewery (it doesn’t get much more Melbourne than that). Urban Alley, along with its tasty namesake Urban Ale, is a hyper eco-conscious drinking spot that comes complete with gas emission offsets and biodegradable packaging. A.k.a: guilt free drinking.
Star Circus, Docklands
Grab your dancing shoes, because much-loved musical extravaganza EVITA is making its way to the Arts Centre this summer. Embracing the Latin spirit, Stomping Ground will be opening an Argentinian inspired pop up beer garden on site. From December 4th, theatre goers can immerse themselves in the rhythms of South America, sipping on sunny brews, wines and nibbling fiery local fare long after the show ends.
The Arts Centre, 100 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne
Old souls will instantly feel at home upon pulling up a pew at Westwood Wine Bar. The soundtrack is strictly jazz, while an unfussy European-inspired grazing menu nails the air of laidback sophistication. The carefully curated wine list changes regularly, and features smaller producers from across the globe. All of which sets the scene for a place that’s made for those in the know.
313 Victoria St, West Melbourne
Proof that they’re onto something out West, Luxsmith Bar and Wineshop has opened up shop. And it’s fast on its way to achieving local hero status. Whether you’re looking to drink in and sample the well thought out cocktail list, or take a bottle of something special to go, this charmingly chilled drinking den has all the makings of your new favourite local.
Cnr Charles and Gamon St, Seddon
Gamers rejoice, Melbourne now has its very own adults-only arcade and cocktail bar. Neon bright and high on kitsch, B.Lucky is a trove of wonders for the young at heart, where you can sample everything from Mario Kart racing to an expertly made Old Fashioned, all supported by a decent local wine list. Play your cards right, and you just might get lucky.
Level 3, 211 La Trobe St, Melbourne
Entering Clooney Kitchen and Bar is like taking a step back in time to an era when every cocktail den worth its while was ‘dark and mysterious’ and chandeliers were standard. The beverages on offer are equally evocative, with the likes of The Duck Fat Martini and Oaxaca Tea stealing the show on name alone. Luckily, they taste even better than they sound.
171 Bay St, Port Melbourne
The ‘Espy’, as it’s lovingly known by locals, is a true St Kilda icon. Closed in 2015, diehard fans have been waiting with baited breath for the famed venue to once again open its doors. And, finally, this November, the wait will be over. Carefully restored to its former glory, and set to be even better, everyone’s favourite pub is back with a vengeance.
11 The Esplanade, St Kilda
Lover might look moody and mysterious, but their cocktails drink like finely-tuned fun. Find espresso martinis topped with torched coconut marshmallow, and a whole menu of Negronis, including one made with pineapple plantation rum. With chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, vintage bric-a-brac on the walls, and soul jams in your ear, it’s time you took this effortlessly cool Lover for a spin.
60 Chapel St, Windsor
This cosy wine bar serves classic Eastern European dishes that’d make your babushka proud. Settle in for homestyle favourites such as borscht, pierogi and slow-cooked beef goulash, perfect for pairing with a Czech Budvar (their Budweiser) or Croatian cabernet. Warm and wood-panelled, Little Odessa’s the perfect place for intimate conversations that stretch deep into the evening.
274 Rear Brunswick St, Fitzroy
The paint’s barely set but the crowds are already strong at this blockbuster three-storey venue from the Fancy Hanks/Good Heavens team. Start with tropical cocktails on the rooftop bar overlooking Chinatown, before heading downstairs for sustenance via satay sticks and beef rendang. Now there’s just one thing left to do – settle into a karaoke room and belt out the entire Spice Girls discography from start to finish.
Level 1-3 188 Bourke St, Melbourne
Rocking a modern fitout but harbouring an old soul, Ines glows with frictionless chatter between lovers and friends. This classy European wine bar pleases all – there’s Italian meatballs on the menu, French wine in the cellar and Ol’ Blue Eyes over the speakers. See the neon sign that says “sometimes you wine, sometimes you booze", though if you ask us, an evening at Ines is always a safe bet.
150 Chapel St, Windsor
Bringing a bit of polished grunge to Prahran is Whaler, a new neighbourhood bar winning attention for its inventive cocktails, Southern-inspired comfort food and a bold cerulean feature wall that sits among exposed brick and hanging lights. Hero dishes include their barley berry succotash and lush 12-hour slow-cooked pork ribs with apple fennel slaw.
71 High Street, Prahran
Cafe Romantica’s reincarnation sees it go from lovable lo-fi diner to lush art deco bar. You can still get pizza late into the night, but now you can also get elegant steak tartare and smoked Spring Bay mussels to go with boundary-pushing natural wines. Decked out with a smooth oak bar, red seating booths and dim mood lighting, it’s hard not to feel a little romantic here.
52/54 Lygon St, Brunswick East
A cocktail and sports bar in one – it shouldn’t work, but it does at the Roy, where you can order a Furphy Ale as easily as a pomegranate cosmopolitan. You’ll find pies in the warmer, a vintage jukebox in the corner and footy on the telly, but there’s nothing rough and tumble about this place, which manages to be both tidy and laidback, just the spot for some ball and banter with friends.
401 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
At this Viking-inspired bar they don’t hold back, from waiters wearing leather tunics to helmets, shields and weapon-shaped steak knives set on tables. Drink mead from a polished horn and whisky decanted from Thor’s hammer, or go for one of their Norse mythology-themed cocktails – the Gates of Valhalla is a heady mix of Bols Genever gin, fenugreek syrup, quince liqueur and lemon.
106 Hardware St, Melbourne
This peppy neighbourhood bar offers all the comfort you’d ever want after a long day – pizza, puppies and a good single malt. Co-owner Anupam Sharma is an emergency vet, so making the Tipsy Cow fur-friendly was always a must. Next time you’re in need of some puppy therapy, head over for a slice of pepperoni, a mean margherita and some good old pats.
359 Bay St, Port Melbourne
A proper speakeasy never goes astray in Melbourne, and this bar, hidden inside an unassuming Prahran café, makes good on its promise. Follow the neon blue light, take no heed of the “staff only” sign and be rewarded with a secret worth keeping. No menus here – just tell the bartenders what you’re in the mood for, be it a flavour profile or base spirit, and they’ll whip you up a bespoke cocktail.
173 High St, Prahran