Published on 12 January 2022
Chap Laps are still a thing, if that’s your thing, and it’s all too easy to stumble out of a nightclub after sunrise. But the past few years have seen Melbourne’s inner southside smarten up its act with a quiver of excellent bars, restaurants with bars and places that hover somewhere between the two in the “wine bar” penumbra.
Especially in summer. Try being angry at the world from a deckchair at the Port Melbourne beach pop-up Exchange Beach Club (39 Bay St, Port Melbourne, exchangebeachclub.com.au), a Four Pillars Pink Gin Fizz in hand, and see how useless it is.
This sandy-toed bar has the pulling power of a black hole, but we suggest you stitch together an evening’s entertainment with a southside bar crawl celebrating the area’s high bar-to-human ratio. Going deep into the excellence of Victorian-made spirits, beer and wine along the way, you’ll need to pack some walking shoes, a Myki and a thirst.
There are decisions to be made. St Kilda often feels like the centre of Melbourne’s universe, but do you want to start or end your night here? Or both? And is your version of St Kilda going to be sand and sunshine (Ocean Martinis made with Patient Wolf gin and dry sherry at the Stokebar (30 Jacka Blvd, St Kilda, stokehouse.com.au), maybe with a spanner crab hotdog), or something sultry behind timber shutters (a little Yarra pinot and a carpaccio classico at the bar at Café Di Stasio (31 Fitzroy St, St Kilda, distasio.com.au) say)?
Who’s to say you can’t say yes to all of the above? The seven kilometres to our journey’s end require plenty of sustenance and hydration along the way, which lends the perfect excuse to pop in to the Prince of Wales Hotel (29 Fitzroy St, St Kilda, theprince.com.au) a few doors along from Di Stasio where your choice of speed triangulates between the rock scenester’s Public Bar, the upwardly mobile Prince Dining Room and the caves à vin-like Little Prince Wine Bar (at the latter, a lightly chilled pinot noir from Gippsland natural wine savant Patrick Sullivan is as charcuterie friendly as it gets. Just saying).
If the Prince represents a quandry, the Esplanade Hotel (11 The Esplanade, St Kilda, hotelesplanade.com.au) a mere 150 metres away is a full-blown attack of FOMO. Twelve bars invite dithering but wherever you land, a Pineapple Gin Punch, made with Four Pillars’ Sticky Carpet gin, caramelised pineapple and lemon myrtle is a fine way to pay homage to the legendary Espy of yore – unless you prefer to take a seat in pan-Asian restaurant Mya Tiger for a plate of spicy pork wontons consumed as nature intended with a Mountain Goat pale ale.
It’s time to bid St Kilda adieu. Grab a cab for the four-kilometre trip to the resurgently hip Greville Street in Prahran, where more choice awaits: will the babble from the beer garden lead you to the old school College Lawn Hotel (36 Greville St, Prahran, collegelawnhotel.com.au) ready to dive into a Geelong-brewed Furphy ale or Mornington moscato; or will you heed the Parisian siren song of Entrecôte (142 Greville St, South Yarra, entrecote.com.au), where a Heathcote rosé and half a dozen oysters make a convincing case for a seat at the bar?
Next stop: The Alps (64 Commercial Rd, Prahran, thealpsprahran.com.au). This mood-lit wine bar brings the Old World to Commercial Road, but it showcases a smattering of Victorians on its constantly changing 20-strong list by the glass – unless, of course, you want to head in the direction of Melbourne’s own Starward Whisky (50 Bertie St, Port Melbourne, starward.com.au) for a civilised sipper.
A few hundred metres away on the other side of Chapel Street, you’ll find Tokyo Tina (66A Chapel St, Windsor, tokyotina.com.au) doing its buzzy Japanese street food thing in a former bong shop. Moon Dog’s tropical lager was made for the snack-tastic menu (at this stage of proceedings, the crunchy corn balls with sancho-spiked mayo are manna from heaven) or you can choose to expand your vinous horizons with an aligote – think chardonnay, then add crunchy freshness – from the King Valley.
Take the short walk to Chapel Street, jump on an east-heading tram and don’t forget to touch on your Myki. A 14-minute ride away lies the end of our southside assault in the form of Clinton McIver’s brand-spanking new Armadale wine bar, Auterra (1160 High St, Armadale, auterrawinebar.com.au). This is a place where prawn and kimchi sandwiches and boudin blanc hotdogs are already bona fide Insta-celebrities and a drinks list is peppered with boutique Victorian goodness, whether that’s Beechworth Bitters Co’s amari or Holly’s Garden fizzily refreshing ÜberBrut (try saying ÜberBrut five times, fast). Our advice? Put yourself in the hands of bar staff who’ll read your needs like a Brooklyn basement fortune teller. Reflect on a mission accomplished and feel at peace with the world. You’re welcome.
By Larissa Dubecki
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