The Elk Room
We don’t know what we were expecting at The Elk Room—South Yarra’s new hidden cocktail bar—but this wasn’t it.
The first step is finding the place. Walk up Toorak Rd till you get to the old Spinetoli, Raf Cinaglia’s evergreen Italian cafe. See that lane running alongside the building? With the elk’s head in white spray paint? Follow his nose down the alley and you’ll come to a black door. That’s the entrance to Elk.
Inside is an undercover red carpet-walkway that leads through to the main bar. It’s sort of an annex space behind Spinetoli really: big baroque chandeliers, huge double-storey windows facing a babbling Tuscan courtyard, lots of elk-themed prints on the walls (naturally), and up at the bar—Raf himself, mixing a range of classy cocktails.
Spinetoli is all about big hearty pasta dishes. The sort of cooking Raf’s mum, Claudina, used to whip up back in Italy. The Elk Room is shooting for something a bit different—a bar menu that straddles the line between “Something to nibble on” and “It’s steak o’clock”. All the dishes are plated beautifully. A definite step up from your typical chips and Arancini balls.
We started with an Amalfi Sunset cocktail (Stoli vodka, Cointreau, lime, lemon and a splash of sugar cane) and matched it with the Tonno Positano (tuna tartare with basil reduction). You can also get polenta chips with capsicum mayo and lightly fried calamari with paprika-spiced veggies. It’s all delicious stuff. The highlight was probably when Raf brought out the rainbow trout, poured over with lurid green verde beurre blanc sauce. Deeelish.
Cocktails are the house special at The Elk Room, but there’s also a tight selection of craft beer, including a few imported bottles of Morretti Birra and Menabrea Lager from Italy. The wine list is small but punchy, featuring a few local drops and a nice Tuscan Chianti (*makes noise from Silence Of The Lambs*).
Spinetoli aren't making a big fuss and dance about The Elk Room. It’s there if you find it. Swing by mid-week for an Aperol spritz and a few nibbles, or settle down on a sunny afternoon, close your eyes and pretend you’re in Florence. It’s up to you.
PS. Don't confuse this place with The Elk Room, inside The Everleigh. They're not the same thing at all.
Image credit: Michelle Jarni