It’s virtually impossible to live in Melbourne and to have never heard of Cookie. Situated behind a solid door on the first floor of CBD boutique and nightlife hotbed, Curtin House, the infamous Asian-fusion restaurant and bar is a staple of the city’s nightlife. Any self-respecting Melburnian will have at least one memory (albeit a hazy one) of struggling down the venue’s industrial stairwell after an evening of over-indulgence. Needless to say, Cookie’s reputation as one of the best restaurants in Melbourne for those who love dining in a buzzing atmosphere with a fantastic cocktail in their hand is widely-spread and well-deserved.
Walking into Cookie feels like stepping into a Narnia devised by Melbourne’s eccentric food and drink-loving elite. There’s work by local artists including Beci Orpin on the walls, decorative Asian screens dividing queuing customers from the bar and restaurant areas, and wall-to-wall bar shelves stacked with glittering bottles, tempting you to try their contents. Waiters dash around delivering plates piled high with the most incredible selections of Thai-fusion delicacies: dumplings, salads, noodles, curries…Never mind ‘less is more’. At Cookie, more is definitely more, and that’s a very good thing.
Listers, we’ll warn you now. Cookie boasts an insanely large menu, making choosing a challenge because absolutely everything is mouth-wateringly delicious. Seafood fans, beware: The variety of mussels, scallops, prawns, squid and crab on offer mean you’re going to have to roll yourselves out of here! For you meat-lovers, the stir-fried pork belly with greens (a crackling crispness to die for!), peanut relish pork skewers (the perfect carnivore’s bar snack), and lamb and eggplant penang (we had to stop ourselves from ordering a second round of this because it was so moreishly tender) should be on your must-eat list.
Never fear, vegetarians and gluten-intolerants, the Cookie chefs welcome you, too! The daikon cake, stir-fried with fresh ginger and spring onions, was a hit with our resident vegetarian on a recent visit, and the expertly balanced Asian flavours ensure that meat-free dining isn’t lacklustre.
Stretching the full width of the venue’s back wall, Cookie’s bar carries one of the most comprehensive ranges of drinks to be found in the city, marking it out as one of the best bars in Melbourne for adventurous drinkers. The variety of rums, tequilas and single-malt scotches is, quite frankly, intimidating, and you know you’re in for a good time when the house absinthe and absinthe-derived spirits list hits the double-figures. Likewise, the wine list is a hefty tome that comes in at over 80 pages (!) of globally sourced vintages—we’re yet to find anyone who’s read the whole thing in one sitting.
Cookie isn’t so much about its individual strengths as it is about the experience as a whole—from Curtin House’s unassuming exterior, to the balcony tables that overlook Swanston Street that provide the perfect people-watching perch for a drink at sundown, to the chilled-out playlist, to the interior that continually buzzes with a party vibe borrowed from the city that never sleeps. Whether it’s a lively date that carries on into the small hours or a group celebration before heading to a nearby D-Floor, Cookie is a local institution that showcases what Melbourne does best.
Image credit: Michelle Jarni for The Urban List