Michael Harden

Doc Martin's: cafe by day, bar by night. Click for more photos

Melbourne's best new bars

Doc Martin's: cafe by day, bar by night. Photo: Sebastian Petrovski

Melbourne's bar scene never stands still. Just when you think that all angles have been covered, another bar opens and proves you wrong. This year in particular has been a bumper one for new boozers. Here are 10 new (or newish) bars that have recently thrown their hat into the ring.

Doc Martin's

With its tiled floor, lofty ceilings, classic timber bistro chairs and dark green leather banquette, Doc Martin's is the kind of bar the Paris End of Collins Street really needed. Operating as a cafe by day, it morphs into a sophisticated (if slightly noisy) watering hole when darkness falls, pushing aperitifs and digestivi, both iconic and obscure. Backlit bar shelves display an impressive range of vermouth, pastis, mistelle and amaro plus an equally serious range of spirits, put to good use in a solid range of classic and original cocktails. 

White Oaks' southern fried chicken.
White Oaks' southern fried chicken. Photo: Michelle Jarni

Collins Quarter, 86 Collins Street, Melbourne, 9650 8500

Drink: Dolin Bitter de Chambery, chilled with a twist of orange.

Eat: Smoked rainbow trout rillettes.

Join the throng at Forester's.
Join the throng at Foresters. Photo: Supplied

Elyros Wine Bar

The Cretan leanings of Elyros have made it one of year's most interesting new restaurants but there are also plenty of good reasons to visit Elyros' separate mezze bar. Backlit terracotta urns and vintage glass and metal light fittings warm the clean-lined space and make for an excellent backdrop to a wine list that takes a comprehensive trip around Europe (including spending a fair bit of time Greece) while also displaying a fondness for Australian labels. There are good, thematically correct cocktails and a short sharp list of Cretan style bar snacks, including the addictive cheese pies, kalitsounia.

871 Burke Road, Camberwell, 9882 8877, elyros.com.au

Drink: The Elyros cocktail, rakomelo (a honey-infused liqueur), Greek sparkling wine, bitters, garnished with a sprig of thyme.

Eat: Apakia, smoked pork loin with capers.

Foresters Hall

The former A Bar Called Barry (nee The Last Laugh) has been given a thorough, successful going over, emerging as a large, dark-hued, flatteringly lit beer hall with, it claims, the biggest selection of local and international craft beer on tap in the country. The decision-phobic may become light-headed at the thought of 32 different beers but attitude-free and knowledgeable bartenders are well versed in reanimating those paralysed by choice. Foresters Hall is also open late (until 4am on weekends) so there are plenty of hours in which to weigh up theIPA merits of, say, a Sierra Nevada Flipside Red versus a Brewdog IPA Is Dead. 

64 Smith Street, Collingwood, 8415 1464, forestershall.com.au 

Drink: Beer, silly.

Eat: Sausage pizza featuring Largo's pork and fennel sausage.

Green Park Dining

It's hard not to feel a little amorous about the bar at Green Park. Green leather booths, a beautiful timber expanse (perfectly proportioned so you don't have to even think about your knees), an excellent bartender (Carlos Arujo from Der Raum, among others) meaning you're in safe hands and a curtain that gets swished across to separate bar from dining room at night would raise the pulse of even the most distracted barfly. Add an excellent list of robustly flavoured bar food that's not afraid of a little fat and salt, a good soundtrack and excellent acoustics and there's every reason to swoon. 

815 Nicholson Street, Carlton North, 9380 5499, greenparkdining.com.au

Drink: Gin and tonic with cucumber juice.

Eat: Charcuterie, sliced to order.

Heartattack and Vine

This latest addition to the Lygon Street mix has plonked itself among some heavy hitters (Jimmy Watson's, Brunetti, Tiamo) but has done so with respect, and it brings something fresh to the mix while still appearing as if it's been around forever. The shtick is Italian bar, so that it morphs seamlessly from morning cafe to lunchtime hangout to night time cicchetti bar with a short, sharp drinks list and an ever-changing selection of small Italian-style snacks displayed in an illuminated glass case. The split-level timber and exposed brick fitout is very Carlton, the offering Italian without resorting to theme park, and the attitude friendly, helpful and unpretentious. 

329 Lygon Street, Carlton, 9005 8624

Drink: Aperol Spritz.

Eat: Fried olives stuffed with anchovies.

Joanie's Baretto

From the team behind the charming Umberto Espresso Bar, comes this equally appealing small bar that's helping High Street, Thornbury become the latest It strip. From the "dash not cash" school of interior design, Joanie's Baretto is a good looking, timber and exposed brick kind of place with a Giotto-esque mural painted on the front bar, a fondness for backlit shelving and a thoroughly welcome attitude. As suits a small, Italian-style bar, the food and drink lists are compact but well directed. The winelist is all-Italian and well priced while beer and cocktail lists speak with a similar accent. 

832A High Street, Thornbury, 9480 5774, joaniesbaretto.com.au

Drink: Birra Ichnusa from Sardinia.

Eat: Salumi platter.

Milton Wine Shop

Yes, the bar/wineshop model is traditionally found closer to the city but this moody little number in a shopfront in Malvern feels completely at home right where it is. There's a cute courtyard out the back and a smaller private room but the main event happens in the front room with its walls lined with bottles (to takeaway or drink on premises), a hefty communal table in the middle and comfortable places to stretch out in the front window. There's a generous selection of wine by the glass that gives a good snapshot of the list that has a distinct (though not exclusive) organic/biodynamic/natural lean. Staff can appear a little aloof at first but, once warmed up, are full of great advice about good things to drink. 

1427 Malvern Road, Malvern, 9824 5337, miltonwine.com

Drink: 2009 Barraco Nero d'Avola from Sicily.

Eat: Meatballs with goat's curd.

Polepole

Pronounced pol-eh pol-eh, this East African inspired bar in the space formerly occupied by Tony Starr's Kitten Club sticks to the theme in terms of food and booze. There's a good list of African beer, complemented by a shorter list of Aussie counterparts and original cocktails with names like Dr Livingston and Mzungu Martini. Food comes from an open kitchen down one end of the long, dimly lit room and, with its ribs menu and selection of interesting and well-executed snacks (corn and chickpea cakes with kasundi), is worth the climb up the stairs all on its own.

Level 1, 267 Little Collins Street, 9650 2811, polepolebar.com.au

Drink: Tusker Lager from Kenya

Eat: Harissa lamb ribs

Romeo Lane

Two former Lily Blacks bartenders have taken over the former Von Haus space in Crossley Street and have reimagined it as an intimate, sophisticated cocktail bar with a sideline in simply elegant bar snacks. The tight focus works well with the small dimensions of the space. The cocktails, both the original concoctions on the list and the classics made on request, are expertly mixed, well balanced, built with quality booze and served in correct and lovely glassware. It's a glamorous space without being stuffy or self-conscious about it, a mood helped along by brilliantly hospitable service. 

1A Crossley Street, Melbourne, 9639 8095

Drink: Brandy Fix, cognac, pineapple, lime and green Chartreuse.

Eat: Moscato jelly with watermelon, mint and vanilla.

White Oaks Saloon

Another spoke in Melbourne's Americana wheel, White Oaks is a good natured, well run bar with a thing for swinging saloon doors, finely crafted cocktails, correct ice (slow melting Hoshizaki) and a menu full of things that go well with Louisiana Hot Sauce. The L-shaped brass and timber bar is a comfortable place to prop and is bathed in the rosy glow from the flagon-shaped neon wall art while there's a second room with tables and chairs for those more interested in making a meal of it. There's an excellent range of American spirits, a range of American craft beer and a soundtrack that's bang-on theme without being annoying about it. 

115 Greville Street, Prahran, 8395 5719

Drink: Beer and a Smoke, beer, mescal, bitters and lime.

Eat: Fried chicken.