As I write, I’m sitting in Tullamarine Airport nursing a hideous hangover. In fact, I might even still be drunk from last night’s “research.” Just so you all know how much I sacrifice to bring you all this wisdom, I feel like someone is slicing my eyeballs open and then getting in there with a sledgehammer and pouding on my skull. But the good news is, I’ve been doing some research, and I have a list of all the cool secret bars in Melbourne. I know, I’m the best.
Location: 22 Drewery Place (Enter via Sniders Lane), CBD
Locals in Melbourne will tell you that all the cool bars are down unremarkable laneways. This certainly holds true for Sister Bella, a bar with no outdoor signage because they are a bar that gives zero fucks. Once you walk down one alleyway covered in street art and turn down a smaller alleyway (also covered in street art), you’ll find a tiny door behind some bins. Keep an eye out for the “What goes up must come down” wall at the end (featured image). Sister Bella features a range of cocktails, weeknight specials, and delicious cheap pizza to boot. Because carbs and cheese are perfectly matched with a big night out.
Location: Level 1, 1 Flinders Lane, CBD
In an awesome twist that any Japanese speaker would be expecting, Hihou literally means “secret treasure”. The ultimate in secret venues, to gain entry you have to ring a doorbell on an unmarked door. It has a sleek Japanese décor, with low lighting and low seating. It’s got all the usual drinks, but if you’re looking for something particularly Japanese you can choose between variations of sake, umeshu (plum wine) and Japanese whisky. Sitting by the floor-to-ceiling windows on the far side of the bar gives you beautiful night time views of Treasury Gardens.
Location: 361 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Unlike the novel that shares its name, The Alchemist isn’t well-known by everyone – it’s another Melbourne secret. I found it through a friend of a friend. Charming baroque couches and satin draperies are hidden beyond a just-visible sign on Brunswick Street right in the heart of Fitzroy. Blink and you’ll miss it. But it’s a great place to go if you’re feeling like something different, or want to step back in time. Definitely a bar that sticks with it’s theme, real apothecary items from centuries ago accessorise the place. And the “Periodic Table” on display is a delightfully easy way to pick something when you’re spoilt for choice. The bartenders are adventurous too: ask them to make one of your own inventions and they’ll give it a go.
TYRANNY OF DISTANCE
Location: Union St, near the Chapel St corner, Windsor
I am in love with a bar that serves $4 glasses of bubbles, has friendly waitstaff and does table service so I don’t have to line up with the mob at the bar. These guys also understand that the Brussel sprout is an underrated vegetable, and they know how to do wonderful things with calamari. This is the kind of place that is so chill, you can sit for hours and not realise how long you’ve been drinking. Your waiters will be your mates by the end of the night.
Location: Level 1, 301 Swanston Street, CBD
With my love of all things Africa, I couldn’t give this a miss. Chances are, even if you’re a Melbourne local, you won’t have even spotted the entrance for Sahara. It’s a tiny staircase in between a bunch of lunch places. Three levels up is the apex – a beautiful rooftop with a bar and seating covered in coloured cushions for a Moroccan feel. Food and drinks are decently priced with specials every night and a super-long happy hour on Thursdays. This is also one of the few places in Melbourne where you can order shisha in a range of flavours – even bubblegum!