It might be best known for its high-end fashion boutiques, but this slice of the southeast is raising the bar with drinking destinations old and new that are callin’ for a crawlin’. Welcome to Armadale.

Shopping strips in Melbourne don’t come much more premium than High Street in Armadale. But increasingly the street and its surrounds have been diversified by a slow but steady stream of new bar openings perfect for punctuating your retail therapy. Art Deco buildings have morphed into rooftop bars, old pubs have been given a new lease on life and a butcher shop has become the fanciest place to have a drink. Time for a crawl? 

Let’s kick it off with this list’s hardest-to-find wine bar, Albert’s, which also happens to be one of the easiest to fall in love with. Meander off High Street down the heritage-listed Kings Arcade to find a true neighbourhood gem (the continual crowds attest to that). Blanket your table with fancy cheese and salumi, then progress to the banging vodka-sauce rigatoni, all the while savouring a bottle of something complex and comforting, like the 2023 gamay from celebrated Yarra Valley winemaker Timo Mayer. 

For a change of pace and scenery, head to the rooftop of vibey Wattletree Road bar Harvie, snapping a shot of the swirly staircase on your way up. This is where you want to be at sunset, so much so that there’s a daily sunset countdown on its website. Get golden-houred with a glass of Punt Road’s Yarra Valley chardonnay in one hand and a generously filled lobster-and-prawn roll in the other. If it gets too nippy on the roof, retreat to the courtyard where you’ll find a roaring fireplace in the cooler months. 

If beer is more your bag, Otter’s Promise has the goods. It’s a more low-key watering hole, all exposed brick and warm timber, and it’s pouring some excellent local brews. Sit among the tinnie-filled fridges while you do an impromptu tasting, guided by the friendly crew. The draught list of the day might include a bold red ale from Footscray brewery Hop Nation or a winter-appropriate nitro stout from Braeside’s Boatrocker. Top tip: the weekday happy hour means $10 selected pints and vinos from 3pm to 6pm. 

Fancy going a little… fancier? Auterra is the companion wine bar to fine diner Amaru, which is just across the road, and also run by three-hat chef Clinton McIver. Naturally there are some swankier options in both the eating and drinking departments. But that isn’t to say Auterra doesn’t like to keep things fun and accessible. The 2023 Murray Darling fiano/vermentino from Blood Moon Wines is a crowd-pleaser to get into while you demolish a satay-chicken hotdog with celery and jalapeño pickle. 

Further down High Street, the Orrong Hotel is a longstanding corner boozer that still holds its old-school charm, despite a revamp a few years ago. The hefty menu of pub classics certainly has some polish, but this remains a place for the everyperson, with weekly steak nights and meat raffles drawing in locals from all walks of life for a pint of Carlton Draught or hazy IPA from Collingwood brewery Fixation in the front bar, before migrating into the wood-panelled dining room for a feed. 

Toorak Cellars is another Armadale mainstay, open since 2010. It’s part of one of Melbourne’s favourite wine-bar families which includes The Alps, The Hills, The Moon and Milton Wine Bar. Like its siblings, this Beatty Avenue bolthole is the kind of place you stop in to buy a vino for dinner, then end up with a glass in the back courtyard or alongside the fireplace, depending on the season. The selection is huge and really runs the gamut, but you can’t go wrong with the elegant Lethbridge Estate pinot noir. 

Last but certainly not least is the bougiest bar of all – in a butcher shop, of all places. 

The beautiful “meat boutique” Victor Churchill is right at home in Armadale. And while, of course, it’s a place to splash out on the finest-quality meats – in marble-splashed surrounds – there’s also a horseshoe-shaped bar where you can park with an expertly made drink and even better plate of steak frites. Try the zingy Churchill Sour, which stars locally made Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin.

By Tomas Telegramma