Best Bars

Where Melbourne - - Contents - By Peter Mcbrearty

MANY AU­THEN­TIC, CHAR­AC­TER INFUSED lo­cal bars in Mel­bourne can be found not far from the city cen­tre, in for­merly work­ing-class in­ner sub­ur­ban ar­eas such as Brunswick, Fitzroy, Colling­wood and St Kilda. One pop­u­lar ex­am­ple of this genre is The Cat­fish (30 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy. 9417 6420), a supremely laid-back venue of­fer­ing a ro­tat­ing ar­ray of craft beers on tap, bot­tled beers and a se­lec­tion of Aus­tralian wine. There’s also a kitchen serv­ing Spar­row’s Philly Cheeses­teaks (in­clud­ing an or­ganic tofu vari­ant for veg­e­tar­i­ans), a small rear beer gar­den, up­stairs pool ta­ble, Tuesday com­edy nights and reg­u­lar live mu­sic ses­sions. The Cat­fish is also a reg­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for nurs­ing and med­i­cal staff from the nearby St Vin­cent’s Hos­pi­tal look­ing to un­wind at the end of their work­ing day, and visi­tors to Mel­bourne will of­ten find them­selves in con­ver­sa­tion with both lo­cal res­i­dents and the friendly pro­pri­etors and bar staff. The per­fect place to be­gin or end a visit to the Fitzroy area, and also as a des­ti­na­tion in it­self, The Cat­fish is an ideal in­tro­duc­tion to Mel­bourne’s justly renowned rep­u­ta­tion for playing host to a wide ar­ray of wel­com­ing and idio­syn­cratic in­ner city and in­ner sub­ur­ban bars.

The Re­treat Ho­tel (280 Syd­ney Road, Brunswick. 9380 4090) fea­tures just about all the in­gre­di­ents re­quired for the per­fect in­ner-city pub, her­itage (es­tab­lished in 1842), live mu­sic, a beer gar­den, de­cent pub food (with dishes such as lentil shep­herd’s pie and a black bean, mush­room and brown rice burger en­sur­ing veg­e­tar­i­ans will also feel right at home), and of course, the most vi­tal in­gre­di­ent of all—an abun­dance of char­ac­ter.

One venue which has (de­spite ex­po­nen­tially ris­ing land prices and the area’s on­go­ing gen­tri­fi­ca­tion) man­aged to re­tain 110% of its true Fitzroy char­ac­ter, is The Napier (210 Napier Street, Fitzroy. 9419 4240), where lo­cal brews, pool, a court­yard, fire­places and a leg­endary tow­er­ing, choles­terol-laden con­struct known as a Bo­gan Burger (de­li­cious but not for the faint hearted) com­bine with the req­ui­site in­tan­gi­ble in­ner-mel­bourne am­bi­ence to draw in cheer­ful crowds of ap­pre­cia­tive reg­u­lars.

The Stan­dard Ho­tel (293 Fitzroy Street, Fitzroy. 9419 4793) man­ages to per­fectly live up to its own mantra—“hard to find, easy to love”—in that it lies nes­tled in a slightly con­fus­ing maze of one way streets, but re­wards the intrepid ex­plorer who fi­nally man­ages to find it, with a warm in­te­rior (the venue dates back to 1865), a renowned beer gar­den, large din­ing area, live mu­sic and, of course, lash­ings of that hard to de­fine, but gen­uine, in­ner-city Mel­bourne char­ac­ter.

What was once known as Lime Restau­rant, lo­cated within the Mer­cure Mel­bourne Trea­sury Gar­dens, has un­der­gone a trans­for­ma­tion re­cently to un­veil Hop Sing Bar & Food. Open to the pub­lic (not just ho­tel guests) Hop Sing serves up an Asian­in­fused hawker style menu that’s ab­so­lutely per­fect for shar­ing. With re­lax­ing views of Trea­sury Gar­dens com­ple­ment­ing the su­perb cui­sine, Hop Sing Bar & Food is the per­fect din­ing spot for busi­ness break­fasts, pre-the­atre din­ners, fam­ily meals and happy hour drinks. At Hop Sing Bar & Food they en­cour­age the spirit of eat­ing and drink­ing to­gether, with a menu designed for shar­ing. Choose from an amaz­ing ar­ray of dishes from their Asian-infused menu. En­joy your meal with a se­lec­tion from their wide-rang­ing wine list, or en­joy one of their lo­cal craft beers.

Daily 10am–late, Mer­cure Mel­bourne Trea­sury Gar­dens, 13 Spring Street, Mel­bourne. 9205 9999. mer­curemel­bourne.com.au

The Cat­fish. Photo: Amy Wood­ward.

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