Words: Annie Davis / Images: James Watkins
Blowing our own trumpet for just one moment, T-Squat’s as proud as a pushy stage parent to announce that James Watkins, T-Squat’s arts editor, photographer, web geek and resident squatter has been nominated as one of the creative types celebrated by the Ketel One Commission project. James took one for the T-Squat team last week, sipping on exquisite Ketel One vodka cocktails at Melbourne’s Blue Diamond bar for the official launch, along with other nominees, for a briefing on what the Commission is all about. Over the coming weeks, James will be "evaluating how to best justify my inclusion in the commission by interpreting what is essentially an open brief: a call to arms to portray how the respective craft of each artist, in these contemporary times of instant gratification, is still exactly that - a craft".

In collaboration with Time Out magazine, Ketel One will then release a ‘little black book’ of individuals taking part in the Commission who, as modern craftsmen and women, live up to the philosophy of the pursuit of originality. T-Squat will keep you posted on James's progress throughout the Commission and the development of the directory. In the meantime, enjoy James's images from the launch party graciously hosted by Ketel One, expertly taken despite his progressively tipsier state throughout the course of the evening.
Matt Checkin in
Watermelon cocktails: winning
The citroen (citrus) vodka was delicious.
Ambassadors get free stuff.
Conrad and Kane - Part of the T-Squat team.
Everyone leaving in a good mood

Words: Annie Davis
Those urban sherpas at Hide & Seek are back with not one, not two but four new guides uncovering Melbourne’s best kept culinary, cultural, retail and bar secrets. Hide & Seek’s Feeling Peckish guide plates up a feast of Melbourne’s best cafes and restaurants with something for errr’ybody – no matter your budget, dietary requirements or claims to have seen and eaten it all before. Meanwhile, Treasure Trove offers up a trinket-boxful of the places to find the most eclectic range of retail fixes without necessarily maxing out the credit card. Honourable mention goes to Hit the Streets, putting together what’s got to be the best list of things to do in Melbourne, whether it’s abseiling down buildings or stirring a white witch’s pot.

As much as we like the sound of witches’ brew, T-Squat’s standout favourite of the bunch is Night Owl – a guide to Melbourne’s lesser known but much loved bars, clubs and other late night venues. The guide is broken up into four parts: Hungry Owl features drinkeries doubling as eateries while Owl Down the Pub pretty much speaks for itself. Owl on the Town lists venues with the best D-floor action M-Town has to offer. Owl Out for Drinks singles out a series of bars offering something beyond your average bar experience; whether it’s circus cabaret, in-house breweries or ales brewed by Trappist monks.

Keeping the same format and philosophy making the first Hide & Seek releases so successful, editor Melissa Krafcheck explains, “most of the places we feature are not big businesses, each place has got something special or unique about it”. Rather than respond to numerous requests from venues to be featured, Hide & Seek rely on their trusted team of writers to source places they know and love. That’s not to say each writer is part of each venue’s inner circle of regulars – the beauty of the Hide & Seek guides is that none of the reviews are written with a cooler-than-thou attitude, as if only meant for those in the know. “With this whole idea of ‘hidden secrets’, there can be this elitism about it”, Melissa explains, “we not only pick places you can go to and you won’t be looked up and down, but when you read the reviews, it all makes sense and you’re not thinking, ;I don’t know what they’re talking about’”.

Owl Out for Drinks features forty one venues and without letting too many cats out of bags, we will point out that the bar featured on the front cover of the guide is 29th Apartment – a venue featured way back in Issue One of T-Squat. “That was the first image on the cover the designer mocked up,” Melissa tells us of their choice of Hide & Seek poster-boy bar. “We didn’t want something too obvious that was all about the feel of bars and clubs in Melbourne. We chose this one because it is kind of an intriguing space”.

Do Hide & Seek plan on uncovering any more cities in the near future? Perth’s next on their list, according to Melissa, as is a Feeling Peckish guide to the best culinary secrets Sydney has to offer. Hide & Seek are about to cast an even wider net to snare the best undiscovered urban delights to Tokyo and possibly even Singapore in the near future, so watch that bookshelf space. If you want to know more about the guide or you are a writer familiar around those parts and you would like to become a reviewer, head to Hide & Seek’s website at www.hideseek.com.au.

Freeloader Alert:

Freeload a copy of Hide & Seek: Night Owl, featuring the best late night spots in Melbourne. Email [email protected] with your full name, contact number and your favourite Melbourne night-spot and we’ll pick random winners at the end of March 2011.

Words: Annie Davis / Images: James Watkins
Forever is a mighty long time and if you’ve been burnt by tequila before, ask yourself: could it be that tequila is just a little misunderstood? You’ve seen Californians down shots of tequila at hip L.A. bars like it's water. If your income is as lucrative as this freelance writer, then you’ve at least seen the cast of Entourage down shots of tequila which were, most likely, water? Not even on $1 DVD Mondays?

See, North America is but a secret tunnel’s walk away from the Mexican border – or a hop, skip and jump cross-country, as redneck ultra-nationalists shoot at your feet, if that’s your preference. The U.S. of Australia is way too far away, it seems, for the same selection of high quality tequilas to slip through border control and onto shelves of our local bars and bottle-shops. So what’s a reforming tequila-hater to do?
Take yourself to Maya Tequila Bar & Grill, a venue hell-bent on getting tequila the loving it deserves. Get reacquainted with tequila in Maya’s sleek yet homely hacienda-style dining area or outside in a courtyard with a roof that opens and closes, depending on how Mexican the weather is.

As you would expect from a tequila bar, its shelves are stacked with a Teotihuacan pyramid of tequila bottles of varying shapes, colours and sizes. Maya’s self-imported selection ranges from mid-range labels like Don Julio to labels with a price-tag we’d hate to think which organs you’d need to put up on e-bay to afford.

What you might not expect of a venue calling itself a grill is the quality of cuisine plated up by Maya’s kitchen. Their chef plates up quesadillas, chipotle meatballs and jalapenos poppers so delectably modern and fresh, you’ll forget Old El Paso ever even existed. Never go back there, it’s dead to you now.
You will need to order at least the entree platter at Maya – not just because the food is phenomenal but because you have a lot of tequila learning ahead of you. Our tequila tutor for the night was Adrian, one of Maya’s three amigos and formerly part of Sydney’s Cafe Pacifico until he moved south of the border to bring Melbourne a fresh slice of Mexicana.

First lesson for the night: before you blame a late night shot of tequila for a trip on down to spew-town, ask yourself whether those rounds of beer, wine and brown spirits might have had something to do with your unfortunate circumstances. Tequila is a spirit which is comparatively quite pure. Distilled from juices of the agave plant, you can drink ‘mixtos’, made from at least 51% agave or keep it pure with 100% agave. If you stick with 100% agave, you might find some truth to the claim that tequila is an ‘upper’ and the only alcohol that is not a depressant, meaning less of a hangover and no more drunken texts to your ex, except for thinly veiled booty calls.

Still not sold? Lesson number two is that tequila is not just for late night slamming. It’s for sipping and savouring from a caballito – a two to three ounce glass slightly larger than a shot glass, elegantly tapered to be wider at the mouth – and carefully matching with your food. As with wine, there are different types of tequila. There is the traditional blanco, white or silver in colour which has the bouquet and flavour of the blue agave plant. Then there is joven or abocado joven, made from blanco with colourings or flavourings like caramel added, which is commonly used to make Margaritas. Then you have your reposado which is tequila blanco kept in white oak vats for more than two months and up to one year, bringing a different bouquet and pale colour to a tequila much gentler on the palate. Last, you have your anejo, a blanco aged in white oak casks for more than a year to distill tequila with an amber colour and stronger woody aroma.
Even if you choose to shoot the premium tequilas on offer at Maya, you will learn lesson number three: when ordering tequila, it’s worth extending yourself beyond the usual El Cheapo brands. You will find there is no need for lemon, salt and a grimace with the right label. Instead, discover floral aromas and enticing flavours that serenade your taste-buds like a little mariachi band that leaves you smiling, long after the shot warmly gushes down your throat.

Lesson number four is tequila’s not all fun and games. Like champagne, it’s a serious business. Mexican law states that tequila can only be produced in Mexico, and not just anywhere in Mexico but the state of Jalisco and limited regions in the states of Guanajuato, Michoacán, Navarit and Tamaulipas. There is even the El Consejo Regulador del Tequila (ECRdT) translated as the Regulatory Council of Tequila, established to regulate and enforce all things tequila-related. We’re not sure what the ECRdT would do if you crossed them but we imagine it involves confined spaces and tabasco sauce and that it’s not very pleasant. We may even require a permit, just to publish this article.
If you never hear from us again, it’s because we have unwittingly violated the tequila code and we have been bound, gagged and extradited to Mexico for summary judgment by the ECRdT. We hope they will show us leniency for clearing up the following tequila misnomers. As you await our return, all we are saying is give tequila a chance.

Tequila is NOT ...

An invention of the Mayans

Tequila wasn’t exactly invented by the Aztecs either but it was derived from pulque, a spirit invented by the Aztecs which was fermented from the juices of the same agave plant. It is said the Aztec goddess Mayahuel entered the heart of a giant agave plant so that her blood would flow from its juices and then ferment to become pulque, a milk which would ooze from her 400 breasts.

Made from a cactus

Agave is of a different genus than the cactus plant. Apparently, no spirit worth drinking can be distilled from a cactus but you can go ahead and try.

A form of mescalin

Tequila is a type of mescal or mezcal but this is a term for all liquors made from the agave plant - tequila is a distinct type of mescal because it is distilled from the blue agave. Neither tequila nor mezcal contain any mescaline or alkaloids. For experiences a little more Fear and Loathing in Las Vagas, there is the peyote cactus (an analysis of which is beyond the scope of the present article).

A good reason to eat worms

That was just a marketing ploy, sucka. A Mexican entrepreneur started putting worms in bottles of an inferior brand of tequila from Oaxaca in the 1950s to appeal to gullible gringos north of the border. There is a type of worm which can be found eating away at the heart of the agave plant but if it appears in your tequila bottle by accident, it’s best interpreted as a sign of infestation or a lower-quality product.

Recommended for medicinal purposes

According to vivetequila.com, ‘there is no scientific evidence about any medicinal properties of the agave plant, mescal, or tequila. However if you drink a caballito every day, it will make you a happier person’.

Maya Bar
74 Toorak Rd
South Yarra, VIC
Ph: (03) 9866 8836
words by Melissa Kuttan
Ding ding for round two of the World Class annual Bartender of the Year Comp. Entrusted to a private presentation of its best and most delicious, it wasn't the shabbiest way to spend a mid-week night at two of Melbourne’s best bar venues: Black Pearl and Golden Monkey.

The challenge for round two was to create the best and most innovative seasonal cocktail. What does a ‘seasonal cocktail’ entail? Pre-researching the event, ‘seasonal cocktail’ failed my google-fu but I imagine it meant something to do with the season – a Christmas twist on normal fare or maybe something lighter and fruitier for summer. According to World Class, a seasonal cocktail meant using only the freshest produce and most seasonal ingredients using either Ketel One vodka or Tanqueray No. Ten gin, leaving its candidates a wealth of choice and creativity to fuel their mixing passions.

Bowling me over with his creation was the winner, Chris Hysted from Black Pearl, who concocted a ‘Bloomsbury Cooler’ based off a gin fizz mixed with a number of ingredients, including an interesting infusion of carbonated pineapple and coconut green tea. It was definitely the strongest tasting but the most refreshing and complex in the nuances of its palette. Rob Libecans, one of the other top finalists also from Black Pearl, created a cocktail based off a mango sorbet he handmade himself. From Golden Monkey, the lovely Kash Wall produced a plum and vodka based cocktail with an innovative use of sherry, humorously titled ‘Times Flies when you're Having Plum!’. Fizzier and darker than the others, it complimented the opium den opulence of its resident bar while keeping to the brief being quite seasonal.

What I liked especially about each finalist's creations was that they could be simplified and easy to make at home, even with my klutzy Coyote Ugly skills. Chris's especially involved no shaking and only brief stirring. Most were simple, in terms of technique, and did not need far-fetched ingredients. What decided the content was the thought going into the palette and also the right measure and choice of seasonal produce.

Round three, starting next month will be all about the ‘Gentleman's Drink’ or in Kash's case, the ‘Gentlewoman's’. I cannot wait! Til then, go forth and taste these winning concoctions at their respective bars. You will be impressed and perhaps not as inebriated as I was by the end of the night.

For more about the World Class, the global search for the world’s best bartender, head to http://www.weareworldclass.com

Words: Matt Cohen

Argabah was the famous city in Disney film Aladdin but fuck Disney and lose the 'H' and you're at one of North Melbourne's newest bars. Don't be confused with Aqua Bar, Agua Bar, Agrabar or Agrabah… It's AGRABA a Lebanese/Mezzo bar and lounge on North Melbourne’s Errol St.

Operations and Bar Manager Josh Hardy is paving the way for young entrepreneurial-ship. From the beginning, Josh has been sanding chairs, designing decor and working the floor while the bar staff have been creating cocktails and putting together a drinks menu to rival any in North Melbourne.


What’s most unique about Agraba is the music. Holding onto those old vinyl records has finally come in handy, because they have a BYO records policy: if we dig it, they’ll spin it. With a turntable hooked up at the bar you’ll never be without your favourite vinyls.

Other fundamentals are that Agraba takes bookings, welcomes walk-ins, loves groups or parties, offers table service and boasts a cosy outdoor area.

63 Errol St North Melbourne
Melbourne, Australia



Robot ninjas are right up there with vampirates. Robots? Cool. Ninjas? Cool. Robot ninjas? Cool². Proving our thesis is Robot Ninja – a brand making sake, traditional Japanese rice wine, exponentially cooler than it’s ever been before.

If you’ve tried sake before at some Zen-like retreat, in between raking pebble gardens or soaking in an outdoor hot-spring with a bunch of snow monkeys, Robot Ninja is an entirely different experience. No esoteric traditionalism, no ammonia-scented baths and definitely no snow monkeys. With a bottle that lights up like a Tokyo city street, Robot Ninja brings to mind neon panoramas, Harajuku girls and late night bars straight out of a film set from Enter the Void.

“I've always been a fan of Japanese culture, the incredible urban jungles and the fun, friendly nature of the people” says Craig Kellermann, the brains behind the Robot Ninja operation. “The place is alive with an amazing energy of colour and creativity. Cool, crazy, Japanese mayhem is what it’s all about”.

Showing the inventiveness you’d expect from a robot ninja, Craig’s crew even designed their own machine called ‘The Sakinator’ for bars to warm up shots of sake on the spot, if you like it hot. In the summer months, sake’s best cold and if you find drinking it straight takes a little getting used to, there are a plenty of ways to mix it up. Like the Jinja Ninja – sake mixed with ginger beer and fresh lime. “Our white sake sangria jugs have been extremely popular this summer at The Vineyard (St Kilda),” Craig tells us. “Who would have thought?”

Though Robot Ninja has remade sake’s image into something more 21st century, it’s still a traditionally distilled rice wine at heart. Created by real life ‘sake masters’, Robot Ninja sake is made from a blend of super premium Junmai-Ginjo rice grain, the most pure and natural form of sake. Which means all the good stuff about sake still applies – like containing half the calories of vodka and no bad stuff like gluten, sulphites, preservatives and histamines."

“We're hoping we can encourage people to venture away from their everyday drinks and explore something new,” Craig says of the coup d'état Robot Ninja have planned. “We're betting they'll be pleasantly surprised.

To get some more sake schooling, head to Robot Ninja’s website for their Sake 101 page and cocktail recipes.


By Lauren King
The flavour of South America is impressing Surry Hills’ socialites via a cosy cocktail meets culinary spot called Boteco.
Perfect for those north of the border missing the small bar social scene definitive of Melbourne, Sydney’s Boteco is a breath of fresh air for Surry Hills locals and anyone after a mix of fine liquor, delectable bites and refined yet relaxed clientele.

Inspired by Brazil’s small yet popular pockets for eclectic crew to hangout, drink and eat, Boteco’s food style is called petiscos (meaning ‘tasty foods’ in Portuguese) – small serves of big tastes. A similar faux pas to confusing French champagne with its sparkling imitation, please note: petiscos plates are not the same as tapas, rather, they are carefully selected food fusions designed to enjoy among good company with cocktail, fine wine or cold beer in hand. Salted cod balls and the baby chicken cooked with saffron and served with rice, corn and okra are strictly non bypass-able. The specials board is always rich with limited edition treats - we scored the coconut king prawn risotto, what an epic win that was.
Boteco’s cocktail list tempts with classic tipples twisted with a hit of South America, warming locals with a proportionate mix of the foreign and familiar. Boteco muddles up some of the best cocktails I’ve had in years, having much to do with their hand-picked selection of staff including a prior Ivy Pool Club cocktail shaker and easy-on-the-eye Brazilians (including owner and past Cafe Sydney chef, Fabricio).

The beer and wine list is entirely South American from boutique vineyards of Brazil, Argentina and Chile and there is an entire summer cocktail list ‘from their land’ – the land of the Caipirinha. Brazil’s national cocktail, the Caipirinha is made with cachaca, fresh lime and sugar and you can try one for just $15 at Boteco. Go loco on the Capifrutas, a blueberry and mint rendition of the traditional Caipirinha, or even a strawberry and rosemary, banana and caramel or grapes, hortela and rose concoction.
If you’ve indulged this far, you may as well try your palate at desert. It was hard to resist the Pudim de Letite (Brazilian crème caramel), but I wound up more than satisfied with the dark chocolate brownie armed with homemade coconut ice-cream. Like all stages of dining and drinking at Boteco, a ‘special’ ice-cream option is always on offer.

Warm, welcome and well-read, Boteco is the pinnacle of pleasure.

42 Cleveland Street
Surry Hills


Words: Annie Davis
Delve into the history of the night club and you’ll find Paris is where it all began, in subterranean basements where the French underground gathered to dance to American swing music on two turntables until dawn. Matron saint of that Parisian scene was Regine Zylberberg, described by American tabloids as the Parisian ‘Queen of the Night’.

Though her namesake, Melbourne bar Chez Regine is a far cry from thumping CBD night clubs lining Flinders Lane but a few blocks away. Situated on the opposite side of the city grid, Chez Regine is an oasis for the senses. Walk through the doors and even your watch seems to tick a little slower, its old world charms lulling you into a bygone era when the passage of time and its simple pleasures were something to be savoured.

Vintage hats adorn the walls and the chairs and tables are warm, wooden and homely. Reupholstered chaises hide in dimly lit corners and towards the back, a roller door opens out into a laneway, resembling a kind of time-travel window straight into 1950s Paris. Behind a marble bar-top is a mountainous selection of bottles and, closer to home, an heirloom bust of ‘Bosun Bill’ – the Beenleigh Rum mascot, said to be a pirate of sorts, who distilled his own rum off his steamboat from whatever sugar cane he could get his hands on, off the coast of Moreton Bay.
Little wonder this bar is a popular haunt amongst off-duty bartenders for after work drinks – besides being licensed til 5am on Friday nights, the breadth of spirits on offer at Chez Regine is impressive in any barkeep’s book. If the selection wasn’t salivating enough, they may need to pick their jaws up off Chez Regine’s polished floor when they see some of the prices, like Highland Park 12 years and peated Irish single malt Tyrconnell at six dollars fifty – we kid you not.

If you are not as familiar with the spirit world, don’t be overwhelmed by the biblical length of the Chez Regine drinks menu – its lengthiness is the sign of a true preacher. Proprietors Brooke Hayman and Julian White are so passionate about spirits they can barely contain their excitement when you ask to see their pick of what rare and exotic labels they have available. They can talk about any given spirit they are pouring you for as long as a piece of string. If your piece of string is particularly long and you’ve got time to hang around the bar, these two can have you well schooled on a particular spirit in the time it takes to polish off a few tasting glasses.

Dizzied by the infinite options on their menu, I put myself in Brooke’s capable hands with a tasting of three different whiskies, or should I say, whiskeys? The parenthesis in Chez Regine’s long title ‘Advanced Bar of Whisk(e)y and Cocktails’ begs the question – is it whisky or whiskey? Apparently, it depends on where the whisk(e)y comes from: there’s Irish whiskey with an ‘e’, Scotch whisky without, American whiskey with an ‘e’ and Canadian rye whisky without. Then there are the exceptions to the rule, such as Maker’s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky without an ‘e’. Ay ay ay!
Surprised at how easily I took to that first nip, I progressed on to my second, the Balvenie Double Wood 12 years. Finished in a French oak cask, it was fruity and sweet – two flavours I never thought I would use to describe whisky.

So far, so very good but next up was a peated whisky – the Lagavulin 16 years. Brooke warned that whiskies with ‘peat reek’ were more of an acquired taste and watched with baited breath as I sniffed at the glass from a careful distance. Downing a mouthful, my first thought was that the taste and aroma were much like blue cheese, pungent yet delectable. As I said those thoughts out loud, I saw Brooke beam back at me with the look of a pioneering preacher who has just converted a new heathen.

Third up was a tasting of Sullivans Cove Port Maturation Malt Whisky – a port matured whisky. Though not as taken with this spirit as with the Balvenie or Lagavulin, it came with an intriguing story about the makers – Australian folk in Tasmania who have just discovered a train tunnel on their property, where they plan to age their whisky to greater perfection.

Having confessed to not being much of a whisk(e)y drinker, whichever way you spell it, Brooke started me off with a nip of Jameson 12 years Special Reserve. Much like wine-tasting, I was encouraged to look for the ‘legs’ on the spirit as I swilled it around the glass but then warned not to put my nose too close to the liquid as it can get burnt. Taking a measured whiff I then took a swig from the glass, the crisp yet striking flavours lingered on my tongue, sending warm tingles down my throat.

Warmed by my tasting and talk of Tasmanian train tunnels, I thanked Brooke and braved a rainy night to head out for dinner though I suspected the wee hours may be a better time to head back to Chez Regine. I didn’t even begin to explore their pages and pages of whisk(e)y cocktails or get to tip a little water into my glass and pretend to be an overnight expert. Although the bar does not offer much in the way of food they have bretzels (gargantuan pretzels) sufficient for a night-cap to sustain you after dinner or a late-night shift. Cigars are another treat on offer, so you can blow smoke into your whiskey glass – apparently it does little to change the taste but why not style over substance, once in a while? There is substance enough already at Chez Regine – a relaxed little rabbit hole well worth many a spirit wonderland adventure.

For a closer look at Chez Regine or for more information about the Single Malt Collective, a group of scotch aficionados who meet on the last Monday of every month with guest speakers, head to www.chezreginemelbourne.com.au

Words: Annie Davis
Eurotrash, where do we start? It all began with Rene de la Soyo - the Croation ex-pop star who made his way to Australia in the 90s, or was it the 80s? We’re not sure, this guy’s so enigmatic. The building he and a bunch of other ex-European expats crashed became such a hub they thought, why not make it into a bar? Eurotrash was the inescapable choice of name and the rest is now part of Melbourne bar folklore.

Eurotrash to the core, the venue has gotten itself a facelift. The new Eurotrash facade now features a wall of holes filled with candles and the plan is to get twenty odd artists to fill each with their own installation. She’s still the same venue you know and love: there’s the bar area downstairs full of couches and tables perfect for beer swilling and dumpling dunking and artwork by Ropar you can wander past on your way up to the dance-floor.
Next door, find Eurotrash’s second head – Berlin Bar. Ascend a flight of stairs, past the portrait of Charlie Chaplain dressed as Adolf Hitler (which is not, in fact, Hitler as the staff cleaning layers of spit off the portrait each night would like to point out). You’ll find a bar that is a city divided – up front there is West Berlin, resplendent in marble and brass, with spirits so luxuriously priced they just about need their own security detail. If you happen to be able to afford a bottle, you can even put it away in your very own locker at Berlin Bar, with your very own key from a golden set on display near the bar.

Cross the border into the East Berlin wing of the bar and find an Eastern-Bloc party atmosphere, complete with rundown furniture, propaganda posters and a Soviet-era vibe. If you’re worried about making your way back into the Western world, you have a menu in the form of a passport, valid on either side of the Berlin Bar wall. You can even catch a tongue-in-cheek communist cabaret show every now and then – for details, keep an eye on the website.
On that subject, we’d like to draw your attention to the latest fruit from the Eurotrash loins – a design studio called Stereovision. Started up by Rene and headed up by graphic designer, video editor and Eurotrash staffer Tom Allan and resident Eurotrash DJ 1928, Adam Burnell, Stereovision are the guys behind the stop animation on Eurotrash’s killer website, in between punching out a bunch of other projects. The site was created through slavish hours of video stop animation by Stereovision using a bunch of figurines and a green screen rigged up in the Eurotrash club space. The model used can still be found next to the DJ booth upstairs but we recommend you check out the unreal thing at www.eurotrashbar.com.au

For more about the creative minds at Stereovision: www.stereovision.tv

18 Corrs Lane, Melbourne

Berlin Bar
16 Corrs Lane, Melbourne

Words: Lisa Dib

Not much of a club rat, I am constantly on the prowl for Melbourne bars I can lose a lot of time in. Wander into Black Pearl on Fitzroy’s Brunswick Street and then let your eyes do the same, taking in the rainbow of spirits, liqueurs and little Tiki statues lining the shelves behind the bar.

You’ll see, in their midst, three martini glass-shaped bar awards on the shelf, prized possessions of Black Pearl’s renowned mixologists. The range of signature cocktails are wholly invented and named by the small and dedicated bar staff. At the bar tonight are Evan, Chris and Angus – three supremely talented drinks-men who know what I want before I do.

My eyes scan the list: it’s like Sophie’s Choice. The ‘Blueberry Hills’ cocktail intrigues me: Havana Club Bianco rum, Limoncello, blueberry syrup, lime, balsamic. Drool. Or the ‘Third Strike’: Campari, Grand Marnier, lemon and orange juice, orange blossom. The food, too, impressed a great deal: cheap and diverse, including home-made ‘secret recipe’ sausage roll.

After a long and difficult decision-making process (“Four of everything, please”), I go for the ‘Grand Day Out’, for its inclusion of bar-made Earl Grey-infused Vermouth, plus orange Curacao and lemon charged with sparkling wine. It’s pink and sweet – a little foamy but plain delicious.

The lush, sheer black curtains falling beautifully in the windows, I watch the barmen serve much-loved regulars and intrigued newcomers. They are the genuine article – attentive, whether you’re undecided, confused or curious. There’s no pour-the-beer-and-eff-off, as with many lesser establishments.

Venture past the bar and discover a small balcony with patio furniture upstairs. The flowers and palm tree motif, coupled with the soft, old-fashioned couches brings something decidedly exotic to this little bar; not in a tacky, rubber plants and crazy straws way, more like a rich woman’s Hawaiian hut after 10pm.

Though I am still in search of my cabana boys, I highly recommend Black Pearl as a place to revel, gorge and laugh any night of the week.

The Box is a naughty cabaret, blending humour, eroticism, elegance, drinks and music – a unique burlesque bubble on New York City’s Lower East Side. The performances celebrate the spirit of the Roaring Twenties. On stage, beauties straight from the golden age of Hollywood parade in choreographed numbers. Vertiginous heels, bow ties and high hats mingle with business men, socialites and arty students in the crowd, creating an interesting ambience.

The Box
189 Chrystie St
New York, NY 10002-1202