In Melbourne, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to good watering holes. So unlike some places where you must ask, “Where is the best bar?” in Melbourne you can ask “What am I in the mood for tonight?” Sometimes the answer to that question is intimate spaces, small crowds, less distraction, and attentive service. And what better way to get that, than in some of Melbourne’s best small bars.
The smallest of the bunch, let’s start here. With room for 10 people standing, this is an experience. And before we go on, we must add that with five in the bar you’ll be able to hear each other’s conversations and smell each other’s cocktails. 10 would be an intimate party of sorts. But the banter from the bar staff, the exceptional and traditional cocktails they whip up, and the European atmosphere that the place exudes are all unique to this one bar.
20 Presgrave Pl, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9939 1997
Less of a cocktail aficionado’s hang out, more of a troublemaker’s local. Sister Bella is small and imitate in the way that Uni house parties are small and intimate. There are weird and wonderful cocktails on offer, toasties, specials for students, and games of Jenga to keep you entertained.
22 Drewery Pl, Melbourne VIC 3000
Beneath the cocktail bar 1806 on Exhibition Street, The Understudy is a small bar hidden behind a small wooden door. It leads to an Alice in Wonderland inspired bar where the drinks and food pairings are as eccentric as you’d expect from the theme. Don’t be alarmed by the rabbits and “eat me” “drink me” signs, they all work with the charm.
Downstairs, 169 Exhibition Street, Melbourne
A tequila bar for those who know good tequila. Head upstairs at Kodiak Club, take a hard right through the saloon doors and you’ve found your way. Mexican bites accompany the tequila, and the swing chairs make it all go straight to your head. The bar holds around 100 bottles of the hard stuff at any one time and it’s constantly changing. Beer and wine are also served for those staying clear of the tequila.
272 Brunswick St, Fitzroy VIC 3065
(03) 9417 3733
Another bar within a venue, Thomas Olive is located above Saint Crispin on Smith Street. The space which caters for around 30 drinkers is reminiscent of a Parisian Bar. One of those spaces ideal for pre or post dinner drinks, but a bar in its own right, for sure. The drinks list sees the likes of the Put The Ketel On, a mix of Earl Grey infused Ketel One Vodka, lemon, sugar, and egg whites, and the Manhattan made with Bulleit Rye Whisky, Regal Rogue Sweet Vermouth. You can always go for the classics if that’s what you’re after. Charcuterie and oysters pair well with the drinks menu.
300 Smith Street Collingwood (upstairs)
(03) 9419 2202
While the Black Pearl on Brunswick Street is a killer venue, the bar’s sophisticated younger sister upstairs is something different completely. While the cocktails are still some of Melbourne’s best, the experience takes it up a notch with the sleek fit out and table service. You’ll feel like you just stepped into the days of Jay Gatsby in the best way possible.
304 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
0488 304 304
One of the smaller bars here, Bar Clarine is all about wine. From the team behind Belle’s Hot Chicken, this watering hole opened up next-door, taking with it the love of natural wines. They’re not what you’d usually expect from a wine – a little more raw and rough around the edges sometimes, but divine. The food menu is a ever-changing list of seven or so dishes with a European flavour.
150 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
(03) 9077 0788