Eat & Drink

Bars, Brunch And Footy: Where To Start On A Trip To Melbourne

While sunny Sydney has the beaches, Melbourne thrives on its reputation as cool and creative. What locals love most about the city are the back lanes, the weekdays-only coffee carts and the newest rooftop refurbs – which makes finding the latest and greatest a little tricky to navigate.

And that’s exactly the point. To uncover the best, you have to seek. And maybe you’re here from San Francisco after Qantas’ new route between the two cities launched recently, or maybe you’re here from rival Sydney. Wherever you’re from, you’ll need a good drink on arrival – here’s where to start.

From themed bars to the corner pub

Berlin Bar. Image: Berlin Bar / Facebook

Step one for visiting Melbourne’s bars is to not be intimidated by less-than-welcoming entries. Berlin Bar is self-described as a place “where Capitalist opulence confronts Communist austerity”. You’ll find it in an alleyway in Chinatown, and once you find the door, you’ll need to ring the bell to be admitted. The venue is themed half East Berlin and half West, and as you recline in plush booths you can choose from cocktails such as an Angela Merkel (vodka, triple sec and elderflower liqueur) or a citrusy Luftwaffe Sour. This is ideal for intimate meetings – think one or two friends.

If you do have the crew with you, try StoryVille on nearby Lonsdale Street. The décor and drinks list are inspired by fairytales, and here you’ll find playful cocktails based on classic literature and children’s books. Gather beneath toadstools, with a cocktail like Polyjuice Potion or Charlie’s Winning Ticket in hand, to the back-drop of live DJs. You could also check out Supersmall Club, which does thrilling retro cocktails.

Melbourne also has no shortage of excellent wine bars and humble pubs. On trendy Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, head to The Evelyn Hotel. While you can order from the bar, you can also pop into the bottle shop attached, pick out a bottle of wine and ask the staff to pass it through to the bar for you, where they’ll give you wine glasses. It’s friendly on the budget, and later into the evening the band room hosts homegrown talent or international gigs most nights (usually for a small cover charge).

Best of brunch

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Melbourne is synonymous with brunch; it’s a rite of passage and at some places waiting for a table is par for the course. Auction Rooms in North Melbourne has long been an institution of coffee, and if you want to witness all the gadgets and finesse that goes into various iterations of the humble bean, this is definitely the place. Be prepared to line up to dine in (not uncommon in Melbs) but totally worth it.

Long under-appreciated and literally next door, Fandango has the feel of a vintage corner shop, which might be why many walk on past it. You’ll feel like you’re dining in grandma’s kitchen (helped along by the jars of homemade chutneys on display). The food’s not as dainty as some other brunch haunts – think fat toasties with thick-cut ham and juicy pesto scrambled eggs – but no less Instagrammable.

While in the area, you can’t leave before visiting Beatrix. This tiny bakery isn’t far from main drag Errol Street, but misses much of the passerby traffic. Go here to eat cake. Or potato brioche doughnuts, apple turnovers, pecan pie and fluffly yo-yos. It’s a food publication favourite with a dedicated band of followers, including a handful of celebrity chefs, and over the last seven years has absolutely proven it’s here to stay.

Become a footy fan

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Once you’ve wined and dined a few days away, it’s time to partake in Melbourne’s other favourite past time: footy. It’s as much about the day as the three hours the game is actually on.

If you’re headed to the MCG, you’ve got many pub options that will be buzzing before and after the game. Take a stroll up nearby Bridge Road or Swan Street in Richmond and pick one that tickles your fancy. For a rooftop try the recently restored heritage-listed Union House. You’ll find some small Victorian brewers on tap, classic modern-Australian pub food and happy hour between 4pm-6pm on weekdays. Plan to arrive early – the rooftop only seats 70 and this limit is enforced.

At Marvel Stadium in Docklands, try out The Woolshed for lunch, dinner or drinks. It’s not a secret venue by any stretch, but the polished concrete floors, boutique beers and a crackling fire in winter make it very distinctly Melbourne.

And all the while, don’t forget to turn down a new street and see what wonders you find. Because Melburnians love to be in the know – and so we also love a new recommendation.

And that’s just the beginning. Looking for more Melbourne recommendations? Check out Vance Joy’s tips to the city.

(Lead image: Berlin Bar / Facebook)