St Kilda has, from time to time, been known to take a dance on the disreputable side of life, but a new bar sailing into Acland Street next to the Dog's Bar will bring a whole new meaning to the salty old sea dog term, a 'rum do.'
Opening today, The Nelson is a new St Kilda bar with a firm focus on rum in all its forms. With a dashingly distressed, down by the docks design from Techne Architects, you'll find a particularly long list of 35 rums on offer those in need of a port in a storm, sourced throughout the seven seas, from Barbados to Bermuda, Antigua to Australia's own Beenleigh Dark.
'We're down by the beach and we wanted to create a seaside atmosphere, which ties in with the sailor vibe,' says co-owner Sasha Noble. 'Also, we really just love rum.'
The bar name comes from an old sailor's tall tale about the famous Lord Nelson. When he died at Trafalgar, the British sailors handily embalmed his body by placing it in a barrel of rum, preserving it until they got home. Famed for his good luck – well, except for that one time, obviously – it's often held that the sailors poked holes in the barrel and imbibed of the Nelson-infused rum in order to soak up some of his fabled fortune. As cute as that tall tale is, Noble insists that, 'there is absolutely no human remains in our rum.'
Nelson-free or not, her favourites at The Nelson include the Plantation Barbados, with its sweet hint of coconut, as well as their 20th anniversary blend. Venezuela's Diplomatico Reserva is another top-notch option, as is the Guatemalan Ron Zapaca Solera Gran Reserva Especial X0. 'It's quite a diverse range,' she says. 'You can come in and try a rum for $8, or go all the way up to $25, depending on how flush you feel. They're great to taste on their own, either neat or on the rocks.'
Alternatively you can plump for one of The Nelson's rum-based cocktails, including Noble's top pick the Nelson Mojito, with Plantation 3 Star Rum infused with white pepper, lime zest and mint, with elderflower and orange blossom water. We also love the sound of the Krakenpuss, with Kraken spiced rum with coconut, mint and lime finished with toasted coconut, and the rather alarming contents of the Salvador Darling, mixing up Kraken, Cognac, Absinthe and lemon juice.
But fear not sailor, if rum ain't your thing, The Nelson also has a fully-stocked bar of not-rum spirits, a healthy wine list and tap beers including fantastic WA brews Feral Hop Hog IPA and the Colonial Kolsh as well as Byron Bay's Stone & Wood. The Nelson's sharing menu has treats like sautéed prawns marinated in fresh chilli and lime, salt and pepper calamari and chargrilled chunky chorizo served with aioli garlic, or you can go for bigger dishes like confit duck leg or mixed paella.
Techne's fantastic interior for The Nelson makes use of reclaimed pier wood from Docklands, with great support struts punctuating the rum bar painted white from two metres high, mimicked on the chipped walls, and then stripped to the bare wood below, as if washed away by years' worth of unrelenting waves. There's also an impressive octopus mural, like a deep-sea creature rearing its monstrous head. 'When you walk towards the bathroom you've got quite enormous tentacles coming at you,' Noble says.
The Nelson is the realisation of a long-held dream shared with Noble's brother-in-law and co-owner, Brendan Drinan, with the pair both St Kilda locals. 'He lives just across the road and we've been watching this spot for years,' she says. 'We always promised each other over wine that one day, if that spot came up, we would take it.'
Turns out they're in luck. Maybe the rum is a bit suspicious after all…
Check out more of Melbourne's best bars and pubs.
Image Credit: Katie at the Kitchen Door