Be­neath Driver Lane

Time Out (Melbourne) - - FOOD & DRINK - Fred Sig­gins

IF YOU LIKE cock­tails, whisky, blues, good ser­vice and eat­ing Reuben sand­wiches at 2am, Be­neath Driver Lane is your base­ment of dreams. Oc­cu­py­ing an old bank stron­groom in the CBD, this bar has a Harry Pot­ter feel­ing that’s rare in a city whose sub­ter­ranean spa­ces are sorely un­der­used. If you re­mem­ber the de­funct Nant Whisky Bar, you’ll be fa­mil­iar with the space, but the new guise feels much more lived-in. John Lee Hooker grinds his 12-bar over the sound­waves. Wa­ter bot­tles rest on vin­tage chrome serv­ing trays, and drinks come on coast­ers of thick leather – the magic is in the de­tails. The folks be­hind the bar are per­son­able, knowl­edge­able and look­ing sharp in black chef coats. For a bit of wow fac­tor, cus­tom build your Mar­tini in a del­i­cate wine gl­glass chilled with swirling liq­uid ni­tro­gen. Or geget trop­i­cal with the de­li­ciously sweet and co­com­plex Storm Master dom­i­nated by guava bubut with a re­fresh­ing sour fin­ish. The flo­ral swsweet­ness of a cu­cum­ber and laven­der Old Fafash­ioned is a bit cloy­ing with­out the bal­ance of acid or sig­nif­i­cant bit­ter­ness. The huge baback bar holds a 100+ bot­tle se­lec­tion of wh­whiskies, in­clud­ing uni­corns like Ya­mazaki 18 anand Pappy Van Win­kle. While the wine bars of Mel­bourne serve some of the best plates in the city, cock­tail and spir­its bars of­ten treat fo­food as an af­ter­thought. Not so here. The bar snacks, many of which are served right through till 2am, are some of the high­lights, like the roasted heirloom beet­roots beau­ti­fully pre­sented on a bed of raisin, ca­per and dill puree, tossed with black lentils. Bar food never tasted this healthy. Mor­cilla sausage rolls are not for the faint of heart, the rich blood pud­ding and flaky pas­try rest­ing on rel­ish deeply spiced with enough dried chilli to cause vi­sions of Guadala­jara. By 11pm the room is nearly full and the mu­sic starts to ramp up the tempo to match, but it stops short of rau­cous. And de­spite the clas­sic styling, bar­tenders here won’t con­de­scend, hap­pily ac­com­mo­dat­ing re­quests for “desserty shots”. With our na­tional drink­ing cul­ture still fight­ing against its dan­ger­ous and juvenile na­ture, it’s nice that places like this are en­cour­ag­ing us to drink bet­ter, with­out be­ing judge­men­tal.

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