Sister Bella, Drewery Place, Melbourne

This adorable little bar takes the concept of laneway bars in Melbourne one step further: it is located down an alley that is off another alley.

I mean, your initial thought here isn’t necessarily going to be ‘I bet there’s bar around here!’

So unless you’re told about it, or unless you for some reason decided to walk down an alley and then another alley you’re probably never going to stumble across this bar, which is a shame as its a lovely place to go and wet your whistle.  Here are a couple of pictures to ingrain on your brain:

Look out for this sign and follow it
The brilliant ‘What Goes Up Must Come Down’ graffiti means you’ve hit the spiced rum jackpot!

I was introduced to this place by a couple of humans owned my friend Martha the cat – her humans have been showing me round a few cool places and events in Melbourne recently.

Sister Bella is a cosy, quiet little nook.  The rickety looking floorboards can make you feel a little bit like you’re inside a tree house.  We ventured there last week for a lazy afternoon drink.

Your water comes in this
There’s a nice semi-naked lady on the wall and flowers hanging from the ceiling
The most delicious drink I’ve drank in a while (geddit?!)

 

They’re big on spiced rum here, in particular Sailor Jerry’s.  They do a fantastic cocktail called the Pirate Drank Deluxe-O (now you might get the terrible joke in my picture caption).  It is seriously delicious, and also comes served in a jam jar – who wouldn’t love that?   It’s a perfect combination of spiced rum, tabasco sauce, spiced honey, fresh mint and rhubarb bitters served over ice.  Yum!  It tastes almost medicinal, like drinking honey, lemon, ginger and whisky when you have a thick head.  Kind of…

Sister Bella also serves food, including a curry of the day.  I’ve yet to eat here, good excuse to go back (like I need one after tasting the Deluxe!).  On top of ALL that, they also have games kept behind the bar.  We had a game of Uno.

Another example of quintessential Melbourne.

Sister Bella
22 Drewery Place
Melbourne

Mrs Parmas, Little Bourke Street

I’ve heard so much about Mrs Parmas, even from people who don’t live in Melbourne.  So obviously I had to go see what all the fuss was about.  Unfortunately, I’m really not sure what the fuss is about.  It’s a nice enough place, but for what you pay and for what I was expecting from all the hype, I was actually really disappointed.

Pre drinks at The Red Hummingbird, a gorgeous little cocktail lounge and sister bar to The Emerald Peacock

For those of you who don’t know, a parma is a chicken schnitzel with stuff on it.  So for example the Mexican Parma came with cheese, chillis and guacamole.  I went for the Kilpatrick Parma which has kilpatrick sauce and crispy bacon.  Before I go into why I didn’t really rate Mrs Parmas, I will mention the fact that none of their parmas are frozen or deep fried.  They do make them properly, so that’s one redeeming factor.

 

 

The ‘Floater’ Parma.  Mushy peas, mash and gravy.

The place is nice enough and it is always really busy – when you book a table you can only hold it for two hours and don’t expect to walk in, you need to book ahead.  But it is basically just a popular pub.  Absolutely nothing wrong with that of course.  But I feel I could have spent the same amount of money for a much nicer and much more exciting dining experience, which is exactly what I want while I’m on limited time in Melbourne.

My parma was tasty and filling, I did enjoy it.  Was it worth 25 dollars?  No I don’t think it was.  I’d have been happy paying 15 dollars, and the mildly irritating thing is there are so many parma places in Melbourne that I could have probably paid less than that somewhere else and still had the same quality.

I think Mrs Parmas is a decent place to go, the staff are friendly and if you like the pub vibe then its great.  Plus they do good, locally brewed beers.  I just feel its overpriced and a bit over hyped.  There are far better places across Melbourne.

Mrs Parmas
25 Little Bourke Street
Tel: 03 9639 2269

Disco Abyss @ Shebeen Bar, Melbourne

I know a cat called Martha, she lives in a lovely flat in the CBD.  Last night she invited me to an art party called Disco Abyss which is a new event organised by some friends of hers.  Unfortunately, she hates crowds so I went with her two pet humans instead.

I was really intrigued to go to this and it didn’t disappoint.  It was just what I expected: a wildly flamboyant, decadent, racy, risqué night of music, acting and performances.  It was one of those occasions where more is more.

Pre drinks and preparations at Martha’s pad beforehand

The night was hosted at Shebeen on Manchester Lane. This is a great venue because it has hidden space!  The actual bar is tiny, but Disco Abyss was held in the upstairs back room and the downstairs hallway, which is often used as a cinema.  A few people were there already by the time we arrived, so we got ourselves a drink and mingled whilst waiting for the first act to start.
I decided to enlist myself as the resident blogger for the evening and busied myself by taking photos of people.

 

To the right here is Dosh, one of the organisers.  He very kindly took me into the abyss later in the evening.  A dark and artistic experience!

 

 

 

 

The first act was an absolutely fantastic burlesque dancer, she was incredible.  Between each performance there was an interlude of great music, which these two guys below loved.  They had serious moves, loving life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disco Abyss was a lot of fun, I couldn’t bring myself to leave until the very end.  The atmosphere was the perfect mix of sensual/sexy and friendly/inviting.  Everyone was in a great mood and wanted the night to be a success.  Here’s to hoping there’s more to come in the future!

Open House Melbourne 2013

When Marlee first explained the idea behind Open House Melbourne to me I grinned at the brilliance of it.  As I’ve said many times before, there is so much going on in Melbourne all the time and there’s something to suit every mood.  Basically, for this weekend only, a number of the old buildings in Melbourne are open to the public for free.

A few of the buildings are only available to visit on ballot entry or pre-booked tours, but most of them you can just walk on into!  Today Marlee and I decided to keep it local and check out the ones in St Kilda.  The first stop was the St Kilda Vaults, these used to be a row of shops facing the sea front (just opposite the St Kilda Baths).  It’s a shame the space is no longer used, it’d be a great place to have a party or even a run way show.  They had some great images of old St Kilda inside too.

The vaults are to the left along the road, now all closed up sadly

After this we headed to the iconic pub and symbol of St Kilda that is The Espy.  I love The Espy for its rickety, grungy charm.  In fact, the last time I was there I put my drink down on a table, said table then fell at an angle under the weight of the drink, and the drink fell to the ground.  Good old Espy…

There were tours being held here to explain the history of the place.  It was really interesting, The Espy has been a music venue now for over 130 years!  We were taken through a lot of the rooms that I’ve already been to, but were also taken through the rooms that were previously hotel rooms.  The front is now used as an office space (I’d love to work in an office like that!) and the back rooms are now for the bands that come here to play.  It’s crazy to think of who stayed in the rooms years ago, and who has waited in the rooms to play a gig in more recent years.
Over the years The Espy has maintained its grungy, shabby, risqué charm.  I hope it never loses that, then it’d just be another pub!

 

 

 

It was on one of these rickety tables that my drink met its end

 

One of the band waiting rooms.  The things this room must have seen!

 

The back room is where RocKwiz is filmed.  I realised this when it came on TV one night and I spent the whole episode wondering where I recognised the room from, only for Ben to walk in and go ‘That’s the espy!’.

 

Definitely a room with a view, looks right over the Baths
The picture on the wall is of a gig a few years back, the crowd was so big it spilled onto the streets

 

I love this!  We thought it was wallpaper but it’s actually painted on
And these lamp covers are adorable, very Great Gatsby-esque!
The interior at the Espy isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I love it for what it is.  I also love the fact that it’s such an old venue with such an international status.  The food there is also really good and very cheap! I may be going into the city tomorrow to see some other buildings, but really it depends what time I wake up.  This week has been crazily busy so I may decide to have a lie in instead!

Gin Palace, Melbourne

I really love gin.  Gin and tonic, sloe gin and bitter lemon, gin and cranberry juice, gin and orange juice.  Among my favourites are Tanqueray, Hendricks (this one always with cucumber, not lime), Bombay Sapphire and Beefeater.  So when some friends invited me to join them at a bar called Gin Palace a little part of my life was immediately completed.  In true Melburnian style, Gin Palace is tucked away down an alley called Russell Place off Little Collins street.  The only marker is the rather small ‘GP’ sign above the door which sparkles at night.

It’s a great bar to visit during winter with it’s cushions and cosy armchairs.  When you first walk in it’s easy to presume this place is pretentious, but trust me it isn’t.  The staff are lovely and very down to earth, and they’ve got enough knowledge to whip you up a gin surprise that isn’t on the menu.  The menu itself feels somewhat like a beautifully presented short story book.

Leigh perusing the menu …. ‘Hmmm, so much gin so little time!’

The amazing cushion bath, I was VERY tempted to hop in but I held back
The main interior

The first time I came here I’d had a couple of glasses of wine and didn’t want to mix so I asked for a non-alcoholic cocktail.  What came back was a totally delicious twist of a ginger julep.  This time round I started off with a Tanqueray and tonic and then moved on to the cocktail list.

As you can see, the decor is very fancy schmancy, but I think it really works.  I loved the picture to the top left – it sparkles.  If you ever come here be sure to pop through the door you can see in the above photo just beyond the man in the blue top.  Through there lies a beautiful courtyard area lit up by fairy lights, along with a big, wooden piano as a centre piece.  Just so pretty.

 

I personally find it mildly irritating when you go to a nice cocktail bar and all of the cocktail makers are men and all of the floor staff are women.  So I was really pleased to see some women behind the bar here.  All the staff were incredibly friendly and professional at the same time – they will bring you round a tray of water if you’re sitting down for a while.  I like that, you feel looked after.

 

Look at the luscious sofa!

My cocktail was an aperitif and also extremely strong.  I didn’t manage to drink it all (I’m a low tolerance kind of person) but it was delicious!  Had I not already had a couple of drinks I would have finished it off no problem.

The prices here are a little higher than the Melbourne standard, but not extortionately so.  I feel it’s the sort of place to drink less and savour the gin flavours anyway!  Well worth a visit if you’re short on time in Melbourne and want a night out with a bit of city luxury.

10 Russell Place
Melbourne 3000
(03) 9654 0533