Drinks in Mekbourne

As I’ve previously asserted, I really haven’t been doing much drinking on this trip so far. The main source of boozing has been paired wine with tasting menus, with Borkonyha in Budapest standing out as particularly good. I drank some mandatory beer and soju in Seoul, too.

I suspected that my arrival in Melbourne would likely spark my drinking game into action, not least as I knew a few bartenders in town and it would be rude not to pop in to their new habitats and say hi.

I arrived in town in desperate need of sleep so after much needed snoozing, I headed to my trusty corner shop for some trad bottles of Cooper’s pale ale to stock the fridge in my apartment where I would be spending most of the next month.

Proper drinking commenced the next day with bottomless prosecco and bloody marys at Belles Hot Chicken. This was a good way to have a quality feed while glugging down some tasty lunchtime bevvies.

We then strolled on to Madam Brussels which is a truly hilarious place. A rooftop bar, staff members are kitted out in Borg/Evert era tennis-wear. The menu is a Carry-On style innuendo fest. It was all very Jilly Cooper.

We ordered a big jug of their absinthe cocktail which was like a mojito/southside style thing. It was refreshing and seemed in keeping with the place.

We then wandered on to the Gin Palace which was a super stylish and comfortable basement drinking den. I had a splendid barrel-aged Martinez.

Next up was 1806, where I was delighted to renew acquaintances with Andy Galloway, previously of Bramble and the Last Word Saloon.

I had a very good look at their menu including an excellent drink on Woodford Reserve. I also made Mr Galloway recreate a Bramble classic, the Campbeltown Cocktail.

I enjoyed a trip to Black Pearl, again to renew acquaintances with an old pal in the shape of Oisín Coneely, late of Devil’s Advocate. His Princess & the Pea had been one of our highlight items of 2017.

I got a little look at a drink in development which was a lightly summery number with power-packed salted grapefruit to the fore.

I called in for a glass of wine at the Melbourne Supper Club which is a really stylish spot. With a 70-page wine list containing an entire page of wines from Domaine de la Romanée Conti, this had the feel of an old established institution where you could soon be parted from a large wedge if you felt spendy.

I had a quick stop at Cumulus Up which was a very stylish wine bar eatery upstairs from its slightly more food-focussed sister restaurant Cumulus Inc. I enjoyed their wine, sampling a local tempranillo.

Upon my return from Tassie, I had the considerable pleasure of day trip to the Yarra Valley where we had some excellent fun, principally at Giant Steps winery and the Four Pillars distillery.

After fortifying lunch at Innocent Bystander, we did a full tasting of the Giant Steps range. This focussed mainly on chardonnay, pinot noir and syrah. It was an excellently informative tasting covering the impact of growing conditions, altitude and the like on the wine from same grape varietals. It was fascinating stuff and the wine was delicious.

The winning wine was something called Light Dry Red which does exactly what it says on the tin. We also picked up some of their vermouth, produced in partnership with Four Pillars where we soon headed.

Four Pillars was similarly splendid with an excellent tasting of five of their gins in their main still room. We left with bottles of their Japanese style and spiced negroni gins.

Back in Melbourne I spent a couple of excellent evenings in the wonderful Everleigh. This had just had a little refurb so many people were coming in to check out the work.

On my first visit there was an excellent country band playing. Drinks were an absolute knockout and hospitality from Cam and Lachie was top notch.

There was some outstanding drink pairing work done at Osteria Ilaria, Bar Liberty, Ides and Attica. I really enjoyed the breadth of styles at Ilaria where I sampled some killer amaro and vermouth.

Back on the cocktail scene I had a theatrical smoky Rob Roy at Eau de Vie with liquid nitrogen to the fore. This was a good drink but I found the experience there just a bit flat.

Mjolner made a good hanky panky and served me mead in a horn, I enjoyed beers at Naked for Satan, and I had a quick stop at The Catfish which looked a fun beer bar and live music venue.

The booziest night of my time in Oz concluded at Bad Frankie which is a splendid place showcasing all Australian spirits, wines and beers. We had fun exploring native Australian flavours as well as trying to recreate classic combos with less familiar ingredients. It’s a place I’d highly recommend.

I only managed a one-drink stop at Above Board but that was enough time for some excellent banter with owner Hayden. Their cocktail list was phenomenal. I wish we’d had longer to linger.

My final stop was at Jungle Boy for pre-dinner drinks before our epic visit to Attica. I enjoyed the compact, hidden tiki bar with the Between 2 Ferns highly enjoyable.

Melbourne clearly has a thriving drinks scene. As has so often been the case on this trip, I barely scratched the surface of its riches. I found many places that were just excellent. I look forward to my next visit.

Written by BKR