So that little warm spell has given up the ghost and winter is falling thick and fast. What to do? Bunker up like hibernating bears and cancel the social life until spring? Not bloody likely in old Melbourne town! Luckily our fair city is bursting at the seams with perfect spots to while away a dark winter's eve or watch Sunday lunch slide sleepily into dinner.
Here's our pick of Melbourne's best cosy bars and pubs to snuggle in this winter.
The Local Taphouse | St Kilda East
While on the hunt for Melbourne's best cosy bars, a roof terrace isn't necessarily the first bolthole that springs to mind, but St Kilda's The Local Taphouse, on the corner of Chapel Street and Carlisle Street, is the perfect spot. The huge space upstairs, with its rows of picnic tables, may well be open to the heavens, but they have massive umbrellas and there's a big open fire to accompany several wall-mounted heaters too. If you're lily-livered, you can retreat into the New Orleans-style dining area with actual ceiling or head downstairs where there's not only a roof, but the joint's also littered with well-loved sofas. They've also got arguably the best craft beer selection in town, so if all else fails, fend off the cold with a classy beer jacket while playing indoor bocce.
Captain Baxter | St Kilda
Right on the St Kilda foreshore, swish bar Captain Baxter stands tall above Republica with a huge picture window looking out over Port Phillip Bay, perfect for those dark and stormy winter days. You can grab one of the booth seats near the fireplace and watch the heavens unleash on a dreary Sunday arvo safe in the comfort of this perfect cocktail-supplying retreat. The huge cocktail list has plenty of heart-warming classics, and we love their signature, The Captain, which mixes a fair nip of Jameson with apple liqueur, pomegranate molasses, fresh cloudy apple juice and Melbourne Tea syrup. And on those rare occasions when the summer sun actually does show up, they have a nifty terrace too, all the better for enjoying the sea breeze. All of this makes Captain Baxter arguably one of Melbourne's best bars, whatever the season.
The Windsor Castle Hotel | Windsor
About as northside as pubs south of the Yarra come, The Windsor Castle, with its pea green Art Deco façade crowned with a trio of bright pink elephants, just because, is a cracking place to snuggle up in winter, with the cosy pub drawing a decidedly hipster crowd. Parked on Windsor's Albert Street, in a hidden spot not that far from the bustling Chapel Street strip, it's a cosy, warm and reassuringly dimly-lit pub with its own fireplace, a decidedly cool crew behind the bar(s) and a huge beer garden out back that works in all seasons. There's plenty of cover, provided by quirky tiki huts, as well as a plethora of heaters, plus there's a great bar out there too, so nature can't rain on your beer parade.
The Great Britain Hotel | Richmond
Putting the 'great' into winter is Church Street Richmond's The Great Britain Hotel, or GB to the locals. This one's been around for many a year and has a fair few stories to tell, but mostly it's a super-relaxed shabbily cosy pub with plenty of squishy sofas and a big toasty fire too, with live music on offer several nights per week, with the likes of Dead Elvis, Queens Head and The Tiger and Me keeping the crowds entertained, or opt in yourself, with open mic night Wednesdays. There may not be a kitchen, but they'll happily order in pizza or Thai from the neighbours, and you can prove your brain's brawn on Tuesday trivia nights.
Eau De Vie | Melbourne CBD
Where to bunker down in the city, we hear you cry? While there are quite a few good old-fashioned pubs perfect for keeping the toes warm in winter, like The Mitre Tavern or The Carlton Hotel, but we recommend a dram of whiskey at one of Melbourne's best bars to keep your spirits toasty. Eau De Vie, or EDV for the acronym-hungry, has one of the city's finest ranges and it's secreted down Malthouse Lane, proper Melbourne-style. Leave the cold winter nights behind you, pull up a leather pew in this dark and sexy bar and let resident drinks guru Greg Sanderson guide you through their library of single malts, handily divvied up into Scotland's distinct regions or, if you must be heathenous, other world nips too. If whiskey's not your thing, dive into the beautifully illustrated cocktail menu. By the time you head out into the cold after a stint at this gorgeous and cosy cocktail bar, you won't care anymore.
The Great Northern Hotel | Carlton North
If you're smart enough to get in early, there's a perfect little snug tucked away out back of Rathdowne Street's The Great Northern Hotel in Carlton North. Sure, the vast beer garden has a huge roof, covering a fair whack, but short of ducking indoors, this is the best spot to while away a dark winter's night while doing your darndest to work your way through the huge craft beer list that features the likes of Feral Brewery's Hop Hog IPA, Hargreaves Hill's ESB and 2 Brother's Growler Brown Ale. Tuesday nights means $12 rump steak and chips, the perfect fuel for winter warming.
The Napier Hotel | Fitzroy
One of Melbourne's best pubs, dating back to 1866, Fitzroy's The Napier is pure nostalgia in handy beer and counter meal-serving size and well-worn dark wood floors. The walls are adorned with local Fitzroyalty and it's one of those places you can pull up a stool at the bar and listen to the locals' tales of misadventure. Just make sure you don't sit on one of their stools by mistake. The mighty Bogan Burger, packed with steak, chicken schnitzel, onions, cheese, beetroot, egg, potato cake and about a billion other fillings, is a thing of heart-warming legend, so much so they offer the caveat "not just bogan burgers." The peppered roo fillet with béarnaise and shoestring fries is a slightly less daunting winter feed, and they've got a nice range of hearty reds, like the Barossa Valley Gommersal Shiraz.
The Wesley Anne | Northcote Hill
Right up there in the most beautiful pubs in Melbourne stakes, Northcote High Street's The Wesley Anne technically pips the Napier by dating back to 1854, although in fairness it's only been a pub for just over ten years. The gorgeous stone-built edifice started life as a Methodist church, but these days the punters mostly worship the booze and the awesome live music that regularly rocks this cosy pub and its magnificent leafy beer garden, with some of the quirkiest loos in the city. Perfect for winter imbibing, The Wes make a mean mulled wine with the dual benefit of warming the cockles and scenting the joint with spicy goodness. Even better, it's just over the road from the also fantastic live music pub, the Northcote Social Club, meaning a pub crawl is practically a given.
The Quiet Man | Flemington
Irish 'theme' bars can be pretty gross, but every now and then you stumble across the genuine article, and that's the case with Flemington's The Quiet Man – quite literally. The cosy pub was designed and built in Dublin, then shipped over here in pieces and reassembled Ikea-style. Probably with lots of swearing. Irish-owned and largely staffed too, it's a cosy bolthole that's perfect for reading your book over a plate of bangers and mash while sinking a Guinness this winter. The food really is spot on, with oysters natural or Kilpatrick, crispy pork belly and traditional Irish stew. There's a carvery on Sunday, with cheap beers and live music. Another champion of the Emerald Isle is West Melbourne's The Drunken Poet, opposite the Queen Vic Market, and also in The Last Jar, on the corner of Elizabeth and Queensberry Streets.
Aqua e Vino | Yarraville
Still searching for the cosiest of cosy bars in Melbourne? Way out west, Yarraville's, Acqua e Vino is one of the best bars to escape to in winter, laying on the old speakeasy charm with big, dark leather chesterfields crying out for cold bums to sink into them while toasting in front of the roaring fireplace. Jazz sessions here are made for soothing chilled bones, as is the telephone book-thick wine list and the expertly crafted cocktails. Who cares if it's raining outside? Just settle in for the night and hope they don't notice you slumped sound a sleep on a sofa when it's time for kicking out…
Main image credit: The Urban List Sydney.