Level 3, Crown Towers, Whiteman Street Southbank, Victoria 3006
|Opening hours||Fri-Sat noon-2pm; daily 5.30pm-11pm|
|Features||Accepts bookings, Bar, Business lunch, Degustation, Events, Licensed, Long lunch, Private dining, Views, Wheelchair access|
|Prices||Expensive (mains over $40)|
|Chef||Ashley Palmer-Watts, Evan Moore|
|Payments||Diner's Club, eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9292 5777|
Anyone with even a passing interest in cocktails must drink a bloody mary at the bar at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. Must.
The bloody mary here arrives ungarnished in a champagne flute, a clear pale yellow colour, like they've mistakenly poured you an aged riesling. Resist the urge to remind the bartender that you actually ordered a bloody mary. Close your eyes and sip.
Everything's present. The vodka is infused with worcestershire sauce and horseradish, the tomato element a thrillingly clear, summery-ripe consomme. There's parsley oil and pepper. It's clean, complex and elegant, a beautifully constructed messing-with-your-mind rabbit hole of a drink with the added bonus of a hit of booze.
All the cocktails at Dinner's bar feature this kind of trick, where surprising flavours, camouflaged by infusion, suddenly make their presence known. The surrounds amplify the trick.
The bar has the plush upholstered moves of a classic mid-century American hotel bar. Gold velvet armchairs are pulled up to the bar, a low-slung orange velvet banquette behind. Reflective surfaces shimmer with flattering lighting, crisply uniformed bartenders dispense an equally crisp line of humorous banter.
The bar area is raised so you look across the heads of restaurant diners to a double-height wall of glass framing a cinematic cityscape, animated by the flickering passage of an occasional train. It's the kind of bar where you'd expect booze-forward, no fuss classic drinks served in correct glassware. Instead you get a history lesson and a magic show.
Keeping with the philosophy of the restaurant – every dish is a modern take on historical recipes – the bar's cocktails also have origin stories.
Dinner's martini gets a changing roster of makeovers. Sometimes the gin is infused with olive leaf, at others celery seed and green pepper pickle. Whatever flavour infusion, it arrives looking and tasting like some kind of crystal clear elixir of life, garnish flavours hovering in the background like the sound of distant bells.
Dinner's bar was once for restaurant patrons only but now opens to all comers. It's a good idea to book (there's something innately thrilling about having bar reservations) and also to go for one of the monthly changing cocktail flights that includes gratis bar snacks – excellent scotched quail egg and crunchy duck and beetroot crackers seasoned with riberry salt and Tasmanian pepper leaf – and three drinks.
The most recent flight featured the negroni in three incarnations. Purists might implore you not to mess with perfection but in the hands of the booze wizzes here, a skilfully rendered classic was followed by negronis successfully pimped with flavours like sandalwood, pink pepper and pine.
There are other things to drink too, including Two Penny Farmhouse Ale, a collaboration between Dinner and the folks at local brewers La Sirene, but it would be a travesty to front this bar and not drink cocktails.
At $26 a pop ($80 for the three-drink flight with snacks), it's not the cheapest boozer in town but it sure is a lot of fun. And that bloody mary is worth the trip on its own.