It’s no secret that Melbourne is renowned for its excellence in hospitality. What people might not appreciate is that sometimes, we like to get a bit weird by taking on an offbeat theme or concept and really running with it. The results range from the tacky to the terrific, but if it’s something a little left of centre that you’re after, Melbourne’s got it. From science labs, to theatre restaurants to arcade halls, here are Melbourne’s most loved eccentric venues.
Bring out your inner science nerd and visit one of Melbourne’s very first laneway bars. The dim lighting, black and white tiles, and shelves crammed with beakers and test tubes would normally create a stark atmosphere, but once you sit yourself down in a cosy corner, you’ll find The Croft to be quite an intimate setting. Although The Croft is no longer the secret Melbourne hideaway it once was, it has gained institution status due to its commitment to theme and creative cocktails. If themed bars are your thing, don’t hesitate to wander upstairs to their second floor gymnasium-style space, complete with turf bar and bleachers for seating.
Burgers? On a tram? In the sky? Yep, it can only be Easey’s. When this café/burger joint/sky-high bar first opened earlier this year, it generated some serious hype and we’re happy to report that Easey’s is still exceeding expectations in every way. The graffiti-covered Hitachi 153Ms are conducive to a fun and rambunctious atmosphere when filled to the brim. In short, their burgers are killer, and if you’re hungry, don’t hesitate to smash the Melbourne Madness, filled with a double beef patty, triple American cheddar, bacon, potato cake, dim sim (yes, really), jalapenos, pickles, onions, ketchup and mustard. Accompany that with some bourbon and five-cheese macaroni, or a doughnut filled with milkshake-flavour inspired custard, and you’re set.
As far as Tiki bars in Melbourne go, LuWow takes the cake, and a good time here is always guaranteed. If Hawaiian shirts, frozen margaritas and live music sound like something you’d be down with, then get yourself to LuWow STAT. As would be expected, the majority of their cocktails are rum-based, from a variety of Zombies to a classic Dark ’n’ Stormy. Our pick would have to be the King Mai Tai, served in a LuWow Tiki mug you get to take home. If a few of these aren’t enough to coax you out onto the D-floor, they even have go-go dancers to liven up the party. An honourable mention goes to Aloha Sailor, below The Noble Experiment, if you’re into Tiki cocktails and tropical times.
Anyone who has been lucky enough to visit Germany’s capital knows of its historical background, thriving artistic culture and reputation as ‘poor but sexy’. So why wouldn’t we try and recreate a slice of that right here in Melbourne at Berlin Bar? This bar is split into two themed sections: the Communist East and the Capitalist West. Each side is decked out accordingly, so if you want a dive bar feel, head East, and for something a little more swanky, go West. It wouldn’t be a German-themed bar without beer, and they sell imported German brews by the bottle. Their cocktail list is also inspired by this epic European city; for something to keep you going until the early hours, try Das Berghain, with vodka, gin, Red Bull, cherry tomato, lemon, and pepper.
When greeted by the bar staff at Madame Brussels, you would be forgiven for thinking it was time to dust off those tennis whites and start working on your backhand. The garden party theme is alive and well all year round, with outdoor furniture decorating both the open rooftop and indoor areas of the establishment. Even in winter, the experience is nothing short of delightful when you’re covered in blankets under heat lanterns, but nothing can beat a sunny afternoon sharing a cocktail jug amongst friends. Try the Prussian Iced Tea, with Tequila, ripe peaches, lemon, mint stepped in Earl Grey, and topped with lemonade and soda.
This bar is a recreation of the apartment of St Kilda artist and prostitute Kitashe, who was fascinated by New York City and mysteriously went missing in the 1980s. Filled with eccentricities and oil paintings, 29th Apartment is unusual beyond the fact you feel like you’ve gatecrashed a peculiar house party. To continue the Manhattan influence, they serve New York style pizza, and menu offerings are playfully named after the Big Apple’s main attractions. For something on the sweeter side, try a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup martini, with a splash of vodka, amaretto, and chocolate syrup thrown in for good measure. Did we mention they have a Giant Jenga set to play with? We can’t decide if we’re having a night in or a night out.
Melbourne is going a little gaga for gaming as an option for evening entertainment, and hey, who are we to snub such a fun trend? Take a trip down memory lane at Bartronica with classics such as Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Streetfighter 2 and GTI Club, without a single X-Box in sight. The drinks list continues on in the same 80s vein, so be sure to try the DeLorean for a fresh take on the mojito, or get a gin and tonic with Tetris-shaped ice cubes. Just when you thought drinking couldn’t get any more amusing, they go and make ice cubes cooler than ice cold. If you are a gaming nerd at heart, you could also get into other arcade theme bars such as Pixel Alley and Forgotten Worlds.
Take an exotic trip to a bedouin tent at the Glamp cocktail bar, hidden above street level in Melbourne's CBD. Run by the same team behind African BBQ and bar PolePole, the safari-inspired space comes complete with Ethiopian coffee espresso martinis, an African twit on the Mai Tai and cosy camp-feel decor. Don your brightest African print, grab your safari hat and get ready for some delicious drinks and snacks.
Witches In Britches
What weird and whacky list would be complete without at least one theatre restaurant mention? Your night begins as you walk through the tunnel of terror to the mysterious witches’ castle, where you will watch the show, enjoy a three-course meal, and dance the night away in the dungeon pit disco. Witches in Britches is currently running their spellbinding comedy ‘Vanity Lair’ featuring witches searching for eternal youth to the soundtrack of pop songs from the 80s to today. If theatre restaurants are a guilty pleasure of yours, Dracula’s might also be worth a visit; they are currently running a 70s-inspired vampire performance that you can really sink your teeth into.
Image credit: Madame Brussels