Is it not true that Melbourne’s best cocktails are always hidden and almost always found on the other end of a flight of stairs? From alleyway legends to secret bookshelf entrances, this is the definitive list of Melbourne’s best hidden bars.
New Gold Mountain
Address: L1 &, L2/21 Liverpool St, Melbourne
Hidden behind an unmarked door and up a flight of stairs next door to sister bar, Double Happiness, New Gold Mountain is a two-storey Chinese-themed bar and one of Melbourne’s best-kept secrets.
The first floor is a whimsical jade hideaway complete with fireplace; the second floor is a cozy den of ambers and reds, luxurious lanterns and plenty of intimate spaces.
New Gold Mountain boasts an extensive list of liquors and an ever-changing specialty cocktail menu that never ceases to impress. There is also a small section of wines and imported beers and, as if you needed more reasons to check this one out, you can indulge on sweets from LuxBite until 5 am. Late night cocktails and indulgent patisseries – does life in Melbourne get any better?
Fall From Grace
Address: 27 King St, Melbourne
Fall from Grace first appeared in Melbourne back in 2013. Apparently, it was too easy to find because they’ve since relocated to King Street with a beautiful new venue just as grand and luxurious as before – if you can find it.
Perhaps one of the most famous hidden entrances in Melbourne, Fall from Grace is located within sister bar, State of Grace. Find your way to the bar by making your way beyond a sliding bookcase and descend the stairs into the gothic-inspired speakeasy. Grab a seat in the plush armchairs surrounded by trinket-lined walls and treat yourself to one of their expertly crafted cocktails that always seem to have an added touch of indulgence; just as you’d expect from a venue like this.
Address: 1 Flinders Ln, Melbourne
Honestly, having grown up in this city I consider myself quite experienced in finding hidden food and drink around Melbourne. The first time I tried to find Hihou, my friends and I loitered around what Google Maps suggested was the entrance until finally giving up and calling the venue.
Hihou is unmarked, unexpected and worth every awkward moment of looking lost on Flinders Lane. The Japanese-inspired venue is a minimalist, low-lit and elegant bar where guests are expected to de-shoe, in Japanese tradition, and lounge on the black ottomans that line the bar.
Unsurprisingly, the bar comprises an extensive list of Shochu (a potato-based Japanese liquor), sake, plum wine, seasonal cocktails as well as Japanese beers and a range of ever-popular and increasingly hard-to-find Japanese whiskey.
Eau de Vie
Address: 1 Malthouse Ln, Melbourne
Eau de Vie is by far the most famous hidden, but not so secret bars on this list. Very aptly located in Malthouse Lane, this cocktail bar with a whiskey focus is a Melbourne institution.
The philosophy behind Eau de Vie is to deliver incredible experiences. Accordingly, every aspect of Eau de Vie is designed to impress from the expert and theatrical bar staff to the extensive illustrated cocktail list. Be prepared to wait beyond the unmarked door on any given night of the week. Once seated, you’ll receive a veritable tome of cocktails; replete with diagrams and stories.
If you can’t decide, you can always choose the Cocktail Degustation, which is a sumptuous five-course menu, paired with cocktails and available Wednesday to Saturday evening. Bookings are essential.
Beneath Driver Lane
Address: Basement, 3 Driver Ln, Melbourne
Tiny alleyway? Check. Tiny entrance? Check. Staircase underground? Check. Located in the vault of the old Money Order Office of the heritage GPO building, Beneath Driver Lane is a beautiful underground venue. Although not exclusively a bar, Beneath Driver Lane has earned their position on this list due to their extensive drinks menu and the expertise with which they craft their cocktails.
Choose from one of their specialty cocktails or design your own martini, finished with liquid nitrogen. Alternatively, if you prefer spirits, sample one of their whisky flights or enjoy top-shelf wine in the private tasting cellar.
House of Correction
Address: Denyers, Building, Level 4/264 Swanston St, Melbourne
The result of a renovation uncovering forgotten aspects of Melbourne’s past, House of Correction, is inspired by the medical supply store that existed at the location in the early 1900s and supplied death masks to the Old Melbourne Gaol. Take an elevator up to level 4 at 264 Swanston Street to find this hidden bar and find yourself transported to this pared-down prison-themed bar.
The cocktail menu changes here monthly but is always finished with top-notch ingredients and attention to detail such as using house-made shrubs, vinegars and other good things. The bar is open till 3am, 7 days a week and snacks can be ordered from downstairs right until close.
The Attic in Black Pearl
Address: 304 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
The Attic lies up a staircase beyond a closed door of the Black Pearl.
The Black Pearl has long been revered as one of the best bars, not just in Melbourne, but the world (No. 30 in 2018). The Black Pearl has built its reputation on over 16 years of expertly crafted cocktails in a welcoming environment that makes you feel right at home.
The Attic located upstairs from the Black Pearl also encouraged guests to get to know the bartenders and their craft with stools at the bar. There’s a food and drink menu available for perusing but equally you can let the staff know what you feel like and let the magic happen.
Loch and Key
Address: 34 Franklin St, Melbourne
A bar hidden within another bar, Loch and Key can be found behind a bookshelf within Captain Melville on Franklin Street at the north end of Melbourne’s CBD. The fit-out of the bar is simple and classic as is the cocktail menu but the best part is that it’s open till 5 am on the weekend and features a spacious outdoor terrace, which feels like you’ve been transported back in time.
A recommended pick for group hangs and summer nights.
Address: 13 Heffernan Ln, Melbourne
Located in an alleyway in Chinatown, this unexpected laneway bar has been made infinitely more Melbourne by the addition of an upstairs bar last year.
Downstairs, in the small red-brick bar, you can still enjoy the classic cocktails we’ve grown to love but upstairs you can now enjoy a light, bright rooftop bar where the star of the show is gin.
Fresh fruits, vegetables, shrubs and herbs feature throughout both menus, as does a focus on Australia’s glorious local suppliers. Though they take their cocktail craft seriously, they do not take themselves seriously both bars are the perfect choice for a relaxing afternoon or evening.
The Croft Institute
Address: 21 Croft Alley, Melbourne
Located in Chinatown, find Croft Alley and follow the curved laneway to find the hidden and quirky, Croft Institute: a three-storey bar with a peculiar science-theme.
Each floor is slightly different and worth exploring with live DJs on a Friday and Saturday night on the top floor.
Cocktails and shots come served in beakers and syringes on the theme and the house specialty is the rather ominously named cocktail, ‘The Experiment’ which changes monthly and is exactly as the name suggests, an experiment from the Croft Institute team.
Address: 20 Presgrave Pl, Melbourne
The smallest bar on this list, Bar Americano is another Melbourne institution. This world-class, standing-room-only bar is located in Presgrave Place; in an alleyway off of a laneway. The cocktails are the start and end of the experience at Bar Americano. Take the trouble to find it and be treated to serious cocktails.
The menu is small and seasonal but not to be overlooked if you want to try some of the finest concoctions in Melbourne.
Address: 59 Bourke St, Melbourne
Follow Alice down the rabbit hole, or in this case, up the elevator to the 3rd floor and find yourself lost in the world of Madame Brussels. This pink flight of fancy is themed like a garden party complete with grass, heart-shaped lounges and staff in tennis whites all year round.
This is the bar to go to if you want to escape reality for some light-hearted fun and enjoy cocktails to share on the terrace alongside charming cupcakes or perhaps some indulgent chocolate fondue.
In the winter, their range of hot punches will keep you warm, as will the blankets they provide for those willing to brave the terrace. If that wasn’t enough to entice you, Madam Brussels is also dog-friendly which means you can enjoy the very best Melbourne has to offer with your furry best friend by your side.
Pizza Pizza Pizza
Address: 16 Meyers Pl, Melbourne
To be honest, we don’t know if that’s the name of this bar. Like everyone else, we just call it this because that’s where you’ll find it. Unmarked and out the book of the pizza shop, Pizza Pizza Pizza in Meyers Place.
You’ll find Pizza Pizza Pizza by the neon sign and the ever-present queue outside as people wait for their slices of New-York-style pizza, but to find the bar you’ll need to enter the store, walk past the staff preparing the food and straight to through the black curtain at the back.
If you feel uncertain, you’re heading in the right direction.
You’ll emerge on the other side into a small, dimly lit but modern bar filled with booths and a DJ specialising in classic cocktails and desserts. Grab a booth, order a cocktail or an alcoholic milkshake and don’t go past the dessert pizza because, of course.
Address: 264 Swanston St, Melbourne
The upstairs neighbour to the House of Correction already covered on this list, Goldilocks bar is a hidden rooftop bar at 264 Swanston Street. Accessed via the same elevator you take to get to the House of Correction, proceed down the hallway on the fourth floor and up the flight of stairs at the back to find Goldilocks.
An intimate space finished with fairy lights, Goldilocks is an ideal spot when the weather is clear to view Melbourne at it’s finest. Overlooking Swanston Street you can enjoy Chinese-inspired snacks and dumplings alongside classic cocktails.
In a clever addition, the roof at Goldilocks can close so you can still enjoy the views all through winter.
Address: 525 Collins St, Melbourne
Melbourne’s highest bar, the Lui Bar is located on the 55th floor of the Rialto building. If you want to impress someone, this is the place to go. Dimly lit, dark interiors, this venue has views of the bay and city that cannot be competed with.
To get there, locate the separate entrance behind 525 Collins Street and see the staff at the desk to put your name on the list. They’ll escort you to the lifts, which will take you straight to the bar.
The menu features Australiana-inspired cocktails, which are always delicate and delectable and the service is second-to-none.
Is there a better way to finish the day than with great company, a cocktail in hand and the chance to watch the sunset over one of the most liveable cities on Earth?
Address: Level 1/7-9 Waratah Pl, Melbourne
Also located in Chinatown, Manchuria is an opium-den style cocktail bar located in Waratah Place, up a flight of stairs beyond an unmarked door.
Full of date night vibes, Manchuria is a great spot for a catch-up among moody lighting and old world jazz.
Although it’s been around for over 13 years, the bar has largely escaped the notice of the Friday night corporate crowd and so is a perfect place to relax and enjoy one of their signature cocktails such as the Tiger Under the Bed or Mary of Manchuria.
Address: 169 Exhibition St, Melbourne
1806 takes its name from the year that the word “cocktail” was first defined in print and is, as you’d expect, all about cocktails.
Located in what was once a theatre restaurant, the ground floor retains its theatrical roots with the old stage converted into the bar draped with deep red curtains and the mezzanine level converted into a lounge to overlook the extensive range of liquors.
The menu is full of stories presenting each cocktail and the history of where it comes from, how it became famous and how it continues to evolve.
For those looking for a unique experience or to improve their knowledge and skills, 1806 also offers a cocktail masterclass, a whisky masterclass and degustation menus for small groups.
Address: 17 Warburton Ln, Melbourne
One of the more recent additions to this list, find Murmur bar down Warburton Alley beneath a blue awning and a dark door. Taking its inspiration from American piano bars, Murmur is a beautiful venue with a baby grand piano at the centre of it all.
Seating is located around booths, benches and tables surrounding the piano where a performer takes requests from the audience. The menu features tapas from Murmur’s downstairs neighbour, Portello Rosso, alongside an extensive list of cocktails, beer and wine.
This is a venue to impress a date but not advisable for those looking to partake in D&Ms as the music is really what you come for at Murmur.
Address: 2/161 Spring St, Melbourne
To find Siglo, head into The Melbourne Supper Club and up several flights of stairs until you emerge on the rooftop terrace that is Siglo.
A favourite with the well-heeled and corporate crowds, Siglo is an excellent place to enjoy some views and fine wine and cocktails in a sophisticated environment.
The venue is busy and you should expect to wait for a table, even in winter, but Siglo is an ideal venue for bigger groups as well as more intimate occasions or simply when you want to impress.
Address: 10 Russell Pl, Melbourne
This list wouldn’t be complete without Gin Palace which has been enchanting Melbournians since 1997. Few venues of any kind can boast such a long life but Gin Palace remains one of Melbourne’s best-hidden bars for a fine cocktail.
Down an alleyway off one of Melbourne’s busiest streets, Gin Palace is only indicated by a glittering light above the door. Enter into the dimly lit lounge, which is all about comfort and full of velvet lounges and armchairs and even a bathtub filled with cushions.
This is a place to find your corner, settle in for an evening and order from the extensive range of gin-based cocktails. It’s guaranteed that your drinks will be divine and you’ll feel the outside world slip away in this gin palace.
Address: 123 Queen St, Melbourne
One of the lesser known bars on this list but one of my personal favourites, Blue Diamond has some of the best views of the Melbourne cityscape.
To find it, enter the very commercial looking lobby with a diamond on the sign outside and take the lift up to the 15th floor.
Enjoy your favourite tipple in the art deco-inspired décor or step out onto the wrap-around balcony and feel yourself get lost in the metropolis that is Melbourne’s skyline.
The bar does turn into a club on Saturday evenings playing RnB, House and Latin, so if that isn’t your scene, make sure you check it out Wednesday to Friday.
Address: 22 Whitehart Ln, Melbourne
Whitehart bar is one of Melbourne’s hidden bars with a twist. Accessed from the smallest of walkways between two buildings on Lonsdale Street, Whitehart Bar can only be found by the white ‘W’ spray painted on the door. However, once you emerge from the walkway you’ll find it opens up into a large industrial bar made up of old containers and food trucks from Melbourne’s favourites.
The venue features multi-story visual art installations and is filled with great music, craft beers, cocktails and local wines and is the perfect space for an afternoon or weekend session when the weather is fine.
Seamstress / Sweatshop
Address: 113 Lonsdale St, Melbourne
Escape from the bustle of the city and climb a rickety flight of stairs on Lonsdale Street to find Seamstress. Taking its inspiration from the 120-year-old former textile factory, which it calls home, Seamstress is the perfect place for date nights and small group catch-ups.
Cocktails are the star of the show at this hidden bar with a carefully crafted list of both old and modern classics and some clever creations. A small and delicious bar food menu is also available from the excellent kitchen downstairs and, importantly, includes some of the most delicious and underrated desserts in Melbourne.
Heading down the stairs again and all the way to the basement, you’ll find Sweatshop, the alter-ego of upstairs sister bar, Seamstress. Described as the place where ‘all the mischief happens’, Sweatshop is a small, dark space that is all about local beers, bourbon whiskey, banter and graffiti. Only open on Fridays and Saturdays, this space is available throughout the week for private bookings.
There you have it. A list this long should keep you going for a full year with a different venue every fortnight. At the pace with which new venues pop up in Melbourne, we could have a completely new list of Melbourne’s best-hidden bars for you next year.