Melbourne is world renowned for its bar scene. Locals take their drinks seriously, and the city is absolutely teeming with quirky and unusual places to quench your thirst with a signature cocktail or a craft beer.
If you’re looking for a night out with a little bit of a twist, we’ve rounded up ten of Melbourne’s quirkiest bars. From a clinical-looking space designed to look like a laboratory, to a bar that pays homage to everyone’s favourite Seinfeld character, these places are sure to provide you with a memorable night out.
The Croft Institute
The Croft Institute is one of the longest surviving off-the-beaten path bars in Melbourne, and although it might be tricky to find among the labyrinth of Melbourne’s back streets and alleys, it’s well worth making the trip. The bottom floor is decked-out like an old-school science lab, complete with test tubes, syringes and beakers. Once the bar staff have helped you narrow down what to drink, expect to be handed an expertly mixed cocktail served in some kind of medical paraphernalia. Head upstairs and kick back in the gymnasium themed room, decked out with bleachers, a grass floor and a DJ spinning tunes into the early hours.
21 Croft Alley
Pawn & Co
Guests might walk out of Pawn & Co with their wallets a little lighter; everything in the bar is for sale, right down to the glasses their drinks are served in. The decor is reminiscent of a speakeasy, with old books lining the walls, taxidermy, and soft, moody lighting. A DJ spins tunes from the hollowed-out interior of a grand piano, and cocktails are mixed in an old church organs. The cocktail list is heavy on the absinthe, like signature drink Arsenic and Old Lace, which mixes the ‘green fairy’ with gin, dry vermouth and creme de Violette.
177 Greville Street
This St Kilda bar is a faithful recreation of the apartment of Katishe, an infamous Melbourne artist who worked the streets at night to support her career until she mysteriously disappeared in the 1980s. Katishe was obsessed with New York, and the bar is styled like a 1970s New York apartment, complete with couches, refrigerators and a washing machine. Guests can relax in the ‘living room’ with a game of giant Jenga or Guess Who?, which they’ll find stacked up in the refrigerator. It’s a great place to go with a group, with a cocktail list heavy on drinks that can be sold by the jug.
29 Fitzroy Street
Berlin Bar transports guests to a time before the wall came down, dividing the space into East and West Berlin. The West Berlin room is decorated in an opulent, extravagant style, featuring chandeliers, white leather banquettes and decadent cocktails. The East Berlin room is decidedly more rustic, with long wooden tables, discarded grenade boxes and scratchy woollen blankets. The bar has an impressive cocktail list, including the Früschoppen, made from mezcal, sauvignon blanc, dry vermouth, sage, juniper, grapefruit and bitters.
2/16 Corrs Lane
Bar Americano only has space for ten guests at a time, so plan ahead to check out this cocktail bar that produces classic cocktails to the lucky clientele who nab a place inside. The space is modelled on the ‘American bars’ that cropped up all over Europe during the Jazz Age, after Europeans had been inspired by the jazz bars of Chicago and New York. The cocktail list focuses exclusively on the classics, changing weekly depending on seasonal produce. Photography is banned inside the bar, adding to Bar Americano’s alluring exclusivity.
20 Presgrave Place
Seinfeld fans can enjoy the summer of George all year round at this quirky Fitzroy bar, dedicated to the wonderfully neurotic character of George Costanza. The bar features numerous Seinfeld references, including a Frogger machine and bowls of pretzels on the bar, and even a copy of Seinfeld’s pilot script signed by Jason Alexander himself. George’s also has a selection of tasty pub food on offer, with a range of toasted sandwiches all named after famous Georges. Try the George Michael, a sweet sandwich including Twix bars, Nutella and whipped cream.
120 Johnston Street
Storyville is a whimsical homage to everyone’s favourite childhood fairy tales. However, the inspiration is less Disney and more Brothers Grimm, with a darker edge permeating the bar. Once guests have made it past the fire performers outside, they’ll enter a space where toadstools sprout from the ceiling, golden birdcages are hidden upstairs, and to an upstairs library inspired by The Chronicles of Narnia. The cocktail list is made with book lovers in mind, which includes Christianity Without the Tears, inspired by Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and So Long and Thanks For All The Fish, a homage to Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
185 Lonsdale Street
While it takes its name from Bret Easton Ellis’s novel about celebrity culture, Glamorama’s decor is straight out of American Psycho. A portrait of Patrick Bateman greets guests as they walk into the neon-lit bar, and mannequins are dotted around the space; a hand might replace the usual beer tap, and dismembered arms and legs hang from the ceiling. The bar has gained a reputation as a great spot for an all-nighter, open until 5am on Friday and Saturday nights. The bar is stocked with a huge range of Australian whiskies, and a high-end range of spirits that are put to good use in their unique cocktail list. For those that need to soak up the cocktails with some food, the kitchen serves up classic dishes with a twist: think vegan chicken wings and ‘botox’ pies complete with syringes full of sauce.
393 Brunswick Street