Melbourne's BarsA selection of Melbourne's bars by Melinda Houston and Dani Valent.
1. Blue Tongue
(62-64 Ormond Road, Elwood, 9531 3011).
Tanned, tank-topped and thirsty local lizards throng to Blue Tongue for casual drinks and good food. There's a bit of an in-house feel, especially on weekends when the pavement crowd buzzes with beer and cheer, but friendly staff keep casual visitors happy.
2. Double Happiness
(21 Liverpool Street, city, 9650 4488).
No danger of running into any badly bearded Santa clones at this Chinese-themed city nook. Well-positioned couches make for a salon atmosphere with a sociable boost from creative cocktails. New on the list - and mighty summery - is the Big Beard Wang (named after Chairman Mao's hairdresser), with honeyed shochu, Grand Marnier and chilled herbal tea.
3. Il Solito Posto
(basement, 113 Collins Street, city
(enter from George Parade), 9654 4466).
Spunky bar staff and chic suits make for a trouser bonanza (apologies to Fletcher Jones), but it's not all eye candy at this basement bar. Call in for a glass of Fragolino (lightly sparkling strawberry-scented Italian red) and a plate piled with chilled meats, olives and marinated vegetables. Stick around for perfect plates of pasta from the blackboard menu partnered with Italian wines.
4. Chocolate Buddha
(Federation Square, city, 9654 5688).
Fed Square's best bang for the buck is at this pumping Japanese-style diner. The house cocktails include generous slurps of sake - try the Bloody Mary with wasabi and a crisp celery stick. It's got enough sparky kick to help you lug the Christmas shopping home.
5. Public House
(433-435 Church Street, Richmond, 9421 0187).
This faux pub is just the ticket for a frosty glass of tap beer accompanied by newstyle front-bar snacks. Try beetroot and fennel dip, duck liver and pistachio pate and flatbread topped with cotechino sausage. On warm nights, head upstairs to the new terrace.
6. Comfortable Chair
(98 Lygon Street, Brunswick East, 9387 1246).
This is cheerfully grungy and custom-made for a younger crowd. Drinks are cheap, sofas are saggy, and there's a great collection of board games if you feel like a round of Trivial Pursuit.
(Level 1, 185 Lonsdale Street, city, 9639 0966).
Similar to a nightclub, only nicer, this intimate venue has lounges for lounging, a dance floor for dancing, and a hypnotic arrangement of liqueurs behind the bar.
(298 Lygon Street, Carlton, 9347 7080).
This compact and stylish bar has a good snack menu and great cocktails at great prices. A good place for a full-on function or a quiet catch-up.
9. Sama Sama
(310 Flinders Lane, city, 9620 1900).
If you can't decide whether to meet for dinner or drinks, come here. It's Malaysian hawker-style upstairs, lager downstairs.
(284 Sydney Road, Brunswick, 9381 4500).
Early in the evening this is a civilised place for a couple of quiet drinks; after 10pm the DJ sets the pace.
11. Ding Dong
(18 Market Lane, city, 9662 1020).
If you and 30 close personal friends want to let your hair down, head here. If you're more than 25 years old, even better.
12. The Apartment
(401 Little Bourke Street, city, 9670 4020).
This civilised, stylish basement bar has a slightly corporate feel, but in the nicest possible way. Suggest your colleagues meet you here.
13. European Bier Cafe
(120 Exhibition Street, city, 9663 1222).
A theme bar for grown ups, this handsome new venue has a virtual United Nations of beers on tap, plus great food from snacks to full meals.
14. The Pavilion
(472 Beach Road, Beaumaris, 9589 3251).
This revamped pub is all class: airy, summery and literally a stone's throw from the beach. Frock up and pack the Gold Card.
(175 Acland Street, St Kilda, 9534 4456).
This bayside staple has had a refit, and don't the punters love it. Classy, happening, very St Kilda.
16. Jimmy Watson's
(333 Lygon Street, Carlton, 9347 3985).
Takes its vino seriously without diminishing the general bonhomie one jot. Meet your wine snob friends here for dinner and a glass of something special.
(252 Swanston Street, City, 9663 7660).
Late afternoon the elegant Juliet balconies are made for two; later in the evening the more of you and the rowdier you are the better. Big range of beers, terrific menu and ambience money can't buy.
(7/60 Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, 8598 9000).
StKilda didn't really need another bar, but when this one opened locals flocked to it. Whether you lounge on the long sofas or hang out on the deck, it's the perfect place to watch the afternoon turn into evening.
19 Standard Hotel
(293 Fitzroy Street, Fitzroy, 9419 4793).
They may have come over all Jamie Durie (the beer garden has been landscaped), but this pub remains the quintessential "local". Reconnect with old school friends here over burgers and beer.
20 Night Cat
(141 Johnston Street, Fitzroy, 9417 0090).
Still funky after all these years, this spacious venue (above) is a great room for a big group and has live local music on most nights.
(159 Chapel Street, Windsor, 9533 7044).
Everyone in Melbourne is serving snacky bites but the tapas at Basque are the real deal. Snare a perch at the busy bar (come before 7.30pm to avoid waiting), sip on a glass of sherry and call for the culinary parade. Sizzling chilli prawns, anchovies on olive bread and stuffed baby peppers are among the top tastes.
22. Windsor Castle Hotel
(89 Albert Street, Windsor, 9525 0239).
Guided by the pink elephants marching across the roof, make your way to one of the south side's best beer gardens. Enjoy a few jars before bolstering yourself with pub nosh such as rice paper rolls, marinated spatchcock, tempura battered crab or homemade pork snags.
(268 Carlisle Street, Balaclava, 9537 0511).
Come to this cave-like Middle Eastern-themed bar to test out the Passionfruit Cosmopolitan. On Sunday, December 7, Pause's monthly "barket" (a market in a bar) is a good bet for arty Christmas gifts, handmade toys and stocking stuffers.
24. Soul Mama
(St Kilda Sea Baths, 10 Jacka Boulevard, St Kilda, 9525 3338).
St Kilda sunsets never looked so good as from this glam vegetarian cafeteria. The food is wholesome and the drinks are wicked: the Soul Sunset with vodka and peach schnapps is fresh and summery; new beers include a fruity pilsner from Western Australia and honey wheat beer from Tasmania. Sip indoors on the deluxe orange daybed or drink in the view from the terrace.
25. Railway Cafe and Bar
(Platform 1, Middle Brighton Station, Church Street, Brighton, 9610 6260).
This eccentric little bar, right by the railway line, draws friendly folk of all ages. The big nights are Thursday, when there's a rembetiki band, and Saturday, when the joint moves to bossa nova. There's no dance floor as such - or room to swing the tiniest kitty - but the Railway crowd can rarely resist shaking a little booty.
Source: The Age
Also see: Melbourne Pubs & Bars
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