Restaurants

Luxe Cocktails, African Food & Awesome Vibes: Get Wild At This Hidden Melbourne Venue

By Clare Acheson - 18 Feb 2016

We’ve all been there: You’ve had a Thursday evening catch-up with your mates pencilled in the diary for weeks, but finding a venue that does cracking cocktails, delicious nibbles, some more substantial bites for those hungrier mates, AND has the potential for a bit of late-night fun is proving near impossible. Plus, it’s got to be central, right? I mean, nobody from the southside is going to trek to Collingwood on a weeknight, and you sure as hell can’t convince that one pernickety northsider to make the trip to Windsor.

Listers, we have the solution! Drawing inspiration from East Africa, bar-restaurant double whammy Polēpolē and cocktail lounge Glamp are our new favourite two-venues-in-one find. Perfect for everything from a quick drink after work to a full sit-down African banquet, the two-tier venue is hidden behind a doorway in Melbourne’s CBD. The brainchild of Jeanelle and Dean Mariani – an Australian couple who have spent a significant time travelling in East Africa – Polēpolē and Glamp bring the cultural warmth and exotic vibes of the region to Melbourne’s busy inner city. Complete with African-style food, creative twists on African drinks, and a cocktail bar inside a SAFARI TENT (no, we’re not kidding), Polēpolē and Glamp are really raising the stakes for a night out, all under one roof.

Want to know why we love this double-stack so much? Just watch...

And if that doesn't convince you, here are 9 MORE reasons why we simply can’t think of a better venue for get-togethers.

#1: Both CBD Venues Are Entirely Hidden

We bet you’ve probably walked the length of Little Collins Street many times over, and never noticed this discrete neon-lit doorway. Polēpolē and Glamp are both hidden above street-level, up what feels like a secret staircase - which means you’ll feel like you’re walking into a secret oasis, hidden slap bang in the middle of Melbourne’s CBD. Look out for the red neon rhino sign, leave your worries at the door, and get ready to disappear into an exotic world…

#2: …And One Is Inside A Giant Safari Tent!

Glamp is something that has to be seen to be believed. The upper level cocktail bar’s main area is housed inside a stunning safari-style tent and decked out with a combination of traditional African crafts and modern design touches. If you’re the sort of Lister who fawns over an epic interior, or feel like spending a night under canvas without leaving the CBD, Glamp needs to be on your must-try list this month. 

#3: The Food Is Jaw-Droppingly Good

When it comes to serving up modern African-inspired platter, nowhere is doing it better than Polēpolē. With a focus on ribs and game meats to share, you’ll be tucking into everything from sticky pork belly ribs to ostrich fillet, and goat curry to fried chicken ribs with sesame seeds, hummus and honey.

The kitchen also specialises in savoury cigars – crispy pastry delights stuffed with wild boar, lamb, or cauliflower and gouda, and drizzled with incredible toppings such as pomegranate molasses (yes, it’s as good as it sounds). For you vego diners, fried haloumi with Moroccan tea honey and freshly made eggplant chips with African seasoned yoghurt are on the cards. And it’s all thanks to Mauritian head chef, Stolley, whose been honing his culinary skills since the age of 13. Arrive hungry, folks!

#4: The Bartender Trained With The Guy Who Invented The Espresso Martini

There’s nothing we won’t do for an Espresso Martini, and at Glamp you’ll find some of the best coffee cocktails in Melbourne. Head bartender Ben Hehir is ALL about fantastic fresh ingredients, mouth-watering flavours and service that won’t keep you waiting. Having spent over twenty years in the business, Ben learned his trade from Dick Bradsell, the creator of the legendary Espresso Martini, before serving drinks at some of London and New York’s top cocktail institutions. At Glamp, he makes no less than FIVE coffee infused cocktails, alongside African twists on classics, and some brand new concoctions.

#5: …And He Serves Mind-Blowing $10 Cocktails

You don’t get much for ten bucks these days, but before 8pm you’ll find Glamp serving some incredible cocktails for $10 a pop. If you’re a gin lover, you’ll be in heaven sipping on a Tom’s BFF, a raspberry infused tasty twist on a Collins – and if you prefer a bourbon, the T.I.A. is a chocolate and chilli infused Manhattan that packs a punch.. Better yet, you’ll find $10 cocktails at Glamp EVERY DAY including Fridays and Saturdays. Go forth and sip, Listers.  

#6: You Can Eat All The BBQ You Want

No, we’re not kidding. Every Tuesday, the Polēpolē kitchen serves up a mouth-watering All You Can Meat menu that includes plates of African-style BBQ, slow-cooked meats and tasty sides for only $39 per person. It’s one of the best restaurants in Melbourne’s CBD for group catch-ups, so if you’re planning on gathering a crowd for a meat feast, make sure you book a table in advance. If Thursdays are easier for your crew, book in for the BBQ Game On feast, which focuses on tasty game meat that you won’t find anywhere else. With a three-course sitting for only $49, it’s a foodie adventurer’s dream. Our top tip? Get there before 7pm for $6 beers and $25 cocktail jugs before the main meaty event.

#7: Pretty Much Everything Is Designed For Sharing

Whether it’s the drool-worthy cheeseboard or the stunning Love Cup cocktails, Polēpolē and Glamp are all about sharing. Not only does this mean you get to try heaps of different flavours, it makes the duo the perfect location for a date, especially if you’re not 100% sure how long the night will last. Lock in nibbles and a drink in Polēpolē, have another round and some ribs if it’s going well and - if you don’t want the night to end just yet, move upstairs to the cozy Glamp tent bar for a nightcap. Unique date venue = Sorted.

#8: There Are Heaps Of African Beers To Try

While Melbourne’s craft beer scene might be booming, there are only so many Victorian IPAs we can drink. The team at Polēpolē has sourced some of the best beers to come out of Africa, including the delicious Kenyan Tusker Lager and Malt beers, and the richer Ethiopian St George Amber - meaning you can try something entirely different. And who doesn’t love discovering a new favourite bevvy?! (For you stalwarts, they also keep Mountain Goat and Two Birds. You’re welcome.)

#9: You’re Automatically Doing Good By Drinking And Dining

Polēpolē and Glamp aren’t only about delivering a good night out to pleasure-seeking Melburnians. The venue donates a portion of their profits to initiatives here and in Nairobi. Through sales of all African beers and ciders, and 10% of the ‘Big 5’ cocktail, funds are donated to Melbourne-based social charity YGAP and to Women For Women In Africa, which assists families in Nairobi’s biggest slum. Drinks taste better when they’re giving someone else a helping hand, folks.

Polēpolē is open Monday until Saturday from 5pm. Glamp is open Thursday and Saturday from 6pm, Friday from 5pm. Book your table or next function at either Glamp or Polēpolē here.

Editor's note: This article is proudly sponsored by Polēpolē and Glamp, and endorsed by The Urban List.  Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make The Urban List possible. Click here for more information on our editorial policy.

Image credit: Jenna Fahey White for The Urban List | Video Credit: The Phoenix Effect

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