Duration: More than 3 hours
Price Guide: depends on how much you drink
This is not so much a tour as it is a collection of places in Melbourne that are good to drink at and slightly off the beaten track. Most of these places are a bit more expensive than your average bar, but sometimes you need to treat yourself. Also, nearly all of them function as eateries as well so you could use this as a food tour too. Finally, they’re mostly evening-only venues.
Start at Flinders Street Station.
Head east across the road from the main entrance to Flinders Street Station, towards Federation Square. Don’t go into Fed Square though, turn right and head south towards the river. But don’t cross the river, just before you go on to Princes Bridge, turn left, you’ll see an elevator, perhaps some signs for river cruises and a staircase, go down that.
This is Riverland. If you’re doing this tour on an overcast, grey or (unlikely given the never ending drought, but) rainy day, Riverland will be lacking it’s zing. It’s in sunshine that this primarily outdoors bar shines – and when every single suit in Melbourne can be found drinking at its long communal tables after work on a Friday. Pull up a bench at one of those tables and tuck in to its range of four on tap and more bottled beers, very decent although brief wine list and usual range of mixed drinks and spirits. Prices aren’t the cheapest, but nor are they eye-watering.
There’s also a really good range of bar snacks and other light meals. On sunny weekends and after work, they crank up the barbecue and churn out some rather fancy sausages in crunchy bread rolls.
Head back over Swanston Street to Flinders Street Station. From there, cross the road to the corner where Young Jackson’s Hotel is, turn left and walk along Flinders Street until you reach the corner of Degraves Street (about halfway along the block). Turn right up Degraves, continue to Flinders Lane and cross over to enter Centre Place. Hell’s Kitchen is at number 20, on your right.
Go past Jungle Juice, you can visit that another time (and you should) and head up the stairs to Hell’s Kitchen. This place is beloved of Melbourne’s art, independent publishing and general hipster crowd. They offer great coffee, a good selection behind the bar (including two local beers on tap) and a good range of bar snack things (olives, wasabi peas etc) and tasty lunch things.
Head downstairs and turn left and go back towards Flinders Lane. Turn left on Flinders Lane and go to Swanston Street, there, turn left and walk north over Collins Street and then up a little further to Little Collins Street, there it’s another left (yep, you’ve come in a circle pretty much) and go to number 267.
Ready for a cocktail or two? Then past the lime green door and up the stairs with you, welcome to Tony Starr’s Kitten Club.
Designed with the hepcat vibe of 50s and 60s bars in mind, Tony Starr’s is an eating and drinking venue that regularly has live jazz performances and always has amazing cocktails. All the classics are on the list – they do especially good martinis – but their ever-changing house-designed list is pretty special and you should have a go at that too, funds permitting.
From Tony Starr’s, it’s back down the stairs and right on to Little Collins. At Swanston Street, turn left and head north and head up a block to Curtin House at 252 Swanston Street. If you’re feeling tired or lazy, jump on any of the trams that go up Swanston Street and get off at Lonsdale Street, cross the road and backtrack a short distance to Curtin House.
Otherwise, get on up ALL the stairs (or wait for the super slow and often out of order lift) and get yourself a Rooftop drink. A small range of beers on top, a nice little cocktail list, a basic little range of food and snacks and super friendly bar staff. It’s a great bar. And yet another of Melbourne’s cool kids’ favourite places to play.
east, all the way up to Parliament House on Spring St (if it’s late and you’re a bit drunk, just get on the next passing 86 or 96 tram, save your legs). On Spring St, turn left and go to number 161. The entrance is pretty easy to miss, there’ll be a little sign above your head and an anonymous looking wooden door on your left. That’s the door you want so go through that and up the stairs.
The Supper Club, with its huge round window looking over Parliament House, is a Melbourne late night institution. They’re licensed to about 7am I think, so you can wander up here very very very late and still get another drink (which will probably be the last thing you need, but there you go). Thankfully you can also get something to eat (I recommend the eggplant and goat’s cheese toasted sandwich, heaven).
This place tends towards the more luxe end of the market and if you’d like to drop a few hundred dollars on a bottle of wine or champagne or get into the most expensive round of your life with some very old whiskies, then this is your venue. But a not-quite-so-old whisky or a glass of decent, interesting wine are also available and make a not too expensive and extraordinarily pleasurable way to wind up the night. Especially if you can get the couch in front of that aforementioned big window. Excellent stuff.