We were pretty devo when Mexican eatery Queen Of The South closed down in 2017. Especially since they’d opened a secret gin speakeasy literally the week before. The space remained vacant for a while, as spaces tend to do in Prahran, hunting for the right tenant.
The right tenant, it turns out, is Harper. We first stumbled on these guys a few weeks ago when we were driving down High St and did a rubberneck at the big ‘Harper’ sign out front. What was this? A new Queen Of The South? Well, not quite. Harper is a laid back, after-work kick-on bar, not a restaurant. And they’re doing something kind of game-breaking:
Happy Hour...all day every day.
That’s $6 spirits, $6 wines and $6 pints for as long as you bloody well want. Honestly, the mind boggles. We haven’t seen $6 basic spirits since the mid noughties. Harper suddenly goes from ‘just another bar’ to ‘do we even need to leave?’
And that’s what this place is, really: an excellent session bar. It’s open from 2pm on Saturdays (3pm on Sundays), so an afternoon session isn’t out of the question, and the bar is dishing up the sort of food that lets you smash pints all day long. Nachos with guac and jalapenos, wedges with sour cream and chilli (very reasonable at $5), chilli cheese fries topped with beef and spring onion, even salt n’ pepper calamari with Sriracha mayo.
It’s not exactly dinner, but it is great value. You could easily enjoy four hours at Harper and still get change from a pineapple.
The crew inherited a pretty good space too. In fact they’ve kept the old Mother’s Ruin gin speakeasy (the décor looks exactly the same, from what we can tell). As you enter, you’ll notice a wall of bottles on the right. Go ahead and pull the middle section aside—this is Harper’s secret Gin Bar.
So let’s talk booze. There’s four tap beers at the moment: High Brau lager, Sample pale ale, a golden ale from Fuck The Rent and Kaiju’s Robohop IPA. Good solid mix right there. The house spirits are exactly what you’d expect: don’t expect top shelf for $6, but Johnny Walker Black and Belvedere aren’t a bad start.
Image credit: Mel Desa