The Melbourne CBD is a labyrinth for hidden bars, whether they be upstairs, underground or tucked away at the end of a laneway. You don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to suss them all out though—we’ve done the detective work for you. We’ve scoured all the nooks and crannies and come up with some of the best hidden bars Melbourne has to offer. All you need to do is turn up and find the door.
The Boom Boom Room at Mr Brownie
By now you’ve probably visited Jessi Singh’s “Indian-ish” curry pub Mr Brownie, but were you aware that hidden behind one of the many beer fridges is a velvet-licked speakeasy more affectionately known as The Boom Boom Room. Ask the team nicely and they might give you a hint on how to find it, and once you’re down there, give the bartender a nod and they might even show you the exclusive cocktail list.
Curious Cocktail Bar
As one of the newest and most anticipated hidden bars in Melbourne, Curious Cocktail Bar does not disappoint. Follow the spiral staircase into the ultra-luxe venue which is part of the newly opened W Hotel. It’s moody AF and the menu is playful in all the right ways. Curious is celebrating all things Melbourne, from art and fashion to our famous coffee culture—look out for the Curious Ristretto cocktail, it’s an espresso martini with nutmeg smoke all sealed with beeswax. Curious? Climb the stairs to find out more.
Paris meets New York in this subterranean bar on Lonsdale Street. Think classic French cuisine, then add some art deco tiles and mirrors, leather couches, a timber bar and super sophisticated cocktails, and you get Bar Margaux. Anything on the menu is sure to be a winner, but if you’re a bit on the indecisive side, then the bartenders are there to help you decide—they’ll even make you a custom off-menu drink to suit your cravings.
Eau de Vie
Continuing the French theme, Eau de Vie is an award-winning speakeasy bar with great tapas, soft lighting, private booths and soulful jazz to take you into the night. Like a boozy babushka doll, they’ve even got a secret whiskey room hidden behind a bookcase. Taking inspiration from the 1920s, Eau de Vie will transport you back in time to prohibition America—think Gatsby and art deco opulence. The bar also hosts masterclasses in their Whiskey Room, so you can impress a date and up your cocktail game.
Run by the Florentino team, Arlechin is an intimate bar that’s perfect for late night drinks and midnight spaghetti. They say it’s where “food, drinks and mischief meet”, sounds like a fun time to us. You’ll find it down a little laneway off Exhibition Street behind a glass door, and once you’re in it feels like an underground bar that could be anywhere from a New York subway to the London underground. The wine list is extensive and the food is fabulous thanks to the likes of Guy Grossi.
You’ve probably walked past this place hundreds of times without even knowing it’s there. Located on Centre Place just between the famous Degraves Street and the heart of Collins Street, Hell’s Kitchen sits upstairs on the first floor, looking down on all the passersby. It’s been there for twenty years, pouring some of the best beers in Melbourne and serving up some scrumptious signature cocktails. It’s the ideal place to be a fly on the wall, watching people below with a pizza or burger on your plate and a bev in your hand.
East of Everything
You don’t find many bars in the sleepy suburb of Camberwell, but East of Everything is the exception in this dry-zone region of Melbourne. You can just see their third-floor windows as you roll into Camberwell train station, but this inconspicuous local haunt is worth trekking to. They’ve got twelve rotating beers on tap, a southern style tex-mex menu, and glorious city views, and there’s also a hidden cocktail bar downstairs called BarNone—that’s right folks, you get two secret bars in one at this place.
Home to some of Melbourne’s best cocktails, Bar 1806 is hidden behind a single illuminated doorway among the theatres and restaurants on Exhibition Street. Here, top shelf spirits are king and cocktails are flowing, with faves like an espresso martini taking pride of place on the menu, as well as a classic whisky sour. If you’re in the mood to work for your cocktail, you can learn the tricks of the trade at one of their cocktail masterclasses as well.
Loch and Key
Hidden behind a bookcase at Captain Melville—one of Melbourne’s oldest bluestone pubs—Loch and Key is a dimly lit bar with quasi-gentleman’s club vibes. If you don’t consider yourself a gentleman, then still head there for The Thistle cocktail—Amaro Montenegro, rye, calvados, PX sherry, Angostura bitters, lemon juice—or keep it simple with a craft beer, of which they have quite an impressive selection.
This one is for all the arts degree graduates out there. Finally, a place where your research on communism and postmodern culture can come to life. Berlin Bar is everything you’d want from a Berlin-themed bar, complete with a wall separating the opulent west, from gritty east. On the west side, you’ll find plush booths and on the east, war-stricken crates and grenades—don’t worry, they’re fake. All the drinks are Berlin-themed too, naturally. Go for the The Split States house sangria for a chill night, or go all out with the Brandenburg Gate—passionfruit and rhubarb with sweet bourbon, citrus fruit and subtle notes of absinthe and carrot, it’ll hit you like a falling wall.
The Attic At Black Pearl
The Attic is a not-so-secret Fitzroy bar, tucked upstairs above Black Pearl. Inspired by the speakeasies in America’s deep south, the decor at The Attic definitely fits the bill. They’ve got timber furnishings and dark leather accents, hanging antique lighting and of course, top notch liquor. Our tip is to keep things clean with a whisky tasting or commit with a Death Flip cocktail—they won’t even tell you what’s in it, it’s probably best not to know.
One of the most well-hidden bars in Melbourne, Jungle Boy doesn’t even have a sign—you just have to know about it. Head through the freezer door at Boston Sub on Chapel Street to find Jungle Boy. As the name suggests, it’s a bar with a jungle feel and an impressive collection of tiki glasses and indoor plants to match. With a wall to wall exposed brick fit out and an impressive selection of jungle-themed cocktails, this place is like an escape to the wild—minus the spiders. Our top picks are the Nuclear Colada and Bird Is The Word No.2.
The sister bar to NYC’s Milk and Honey, The Everleigh is tucked away on Gertrude Street, serving some of the northside’s best cocktails. You’ll enter through the American diner at the front and will be whisked straight into the golden era, complete with an old-school cash register and an impressive collection of spirits. These guys are true cocktail purists, so you can bet your bourbon that their Manhattan and Old Fashioned are absolute perfection.
Goldilocks is a hidden fairytale bar tucked away above the Denyer Building on Swanston Street. They’re not too big, they’re not too small, they’re just right in our opinion. With a focus on sustainability and recycling, the bar is committed to bringing local Victorian craft beers and wines to you, alongside their signature fairytale-themed cocktails and bar snacks which are mostly vegan and vegetarian. No big bad wolves allowed, strictly wholesome vibes only.
With standing room only and no photos allowed, Bar Americano remains one of the best hidden bars in Melbourne. Paying tribute to the golden age of American bars, this tiny venue holds true to the classic cocktails which have stood the test of time. They’re doing online orders for now while COVID capacities are restricting their ability to open up, but we’re waiting impatiently for the day when we can venture down the two alleyways to find the mini double doors again.
Now that drinks are sorted, complete your night with Melbourne’s best restaurants.
Image credit: Parker Blain