It’s no secret to both tourists and locals alike — the best parts of Melbourne are tucked away in the city’s many laneways. They can be picturesque and Instagram-worthy or downright dodgy looking, those in the know will venture down any alley to see what new hotspot might be hidden there.
It’s no surprise then that my significant other and I made our way to several laneway destinations while out celebrating a friend’s birthday last weekend. Our night began at The Whisky Den on Russell Street. Not located on a laneway, but worth mentioning because of their extensive selection of whiskies. (Note: I’ve never been sure if it’s ‘whisky’ or ‘whiskey’. After reading this guide from The Kitchn I’ll use ‘whisky’ going forward since neither Canada nor Australia have an ‘e’ in their name). Our friend, a whisky enthusiast, was thrilled to find 17 year old Springbank on the menu. An elusive Scotch whisky, he apparently hasn’t been able to find it since a trip to the United Kingdom ten years ago.
I imagine you are supposed to order your drink neat when you go to a place like this but I’m not a big fan of whisky and just couldn’t stomach it. Pro tip: Say you’ll get the next round and let someone else order the first in this situation. Then they’re the one ordering anything you might be embarrassed of. I tried a whisky sour this way. It was delicious.
After the boys sampled a couple of whiskies (while I nursed my one whisky sour) my significant other started to feel peckish and was in the mood for pizza. It took us a while to find a slice the last time we were out late, but luckily, we were in the CBD this night and just a five minute walk from a laneway takeaway pizza place, called Pizza Pizza Pizza. It was exactly the sort of thin crust, no-frills, greasy pizza joint I’ve been longing for. It was tasty, it’s open until 3 a.m. on the weekends and at $4 a slice, the price is right too.
When we arrived, a group was already there chowing down on slices. In the time it took us to order, they finished up and exited through a door at the back covered with a plastic curtain. Curious to find out where they went, we followed them only to discover a hidden bar in the back. It had a cool, dark vibe with couches, a DJ, and apparently a great retro cocktail menu. We were unable to sample it, however, as a sharp-tongued waitress quickly and rudely informed us that paper plates were not allowed in the bar. Despite the waitress, I’d be curious to check it out another time as I’m a sucker for secret things — this bar is so secret it doesn’t even have a name! I’ll just make sure to go sans pizza next time.
We weren’t quite ready to go home after our snack so we decided to move on to a place I’d been wanting to check out for a while called Berlin Bar. Hidden above another bar (I told you I like secret things) on Corrs Lane, you walk up a flight of stairs and ring a doorbell to enter. Someone then greets you and escorts you to either the East or West Berlin part of the bar. We were seated in the East, which is meant to look bunker-chic with barbed wire, netting and an unusual bunkbed table. The cocktails have creative names (like Das Biest and Luftwaffe Sour) and they have a small selection of snacks available as well. I noticed most of the music being played was covers of popular songs — I assume because only bootleg records were allowed in East Berlin. It was a buzzy little bar with a great atmosphere. We stayed a couple of hours and then called it a night.
Up until this point, most of my exploring of Melbourne has only occurred during daytime hours. But as I’ve discovered, there’s even more to see at night — as long as you know what laneway or pizza joint to venture into.
Photo: Robert Blackburn