Melburnians sometimes seem hardwired to seek out sunshine, given it's something of a rarity in our city. But this summer, chances are we'll cancel all our plans to make the most of a few hours of blue sky between the La Niña downpours. Luckily, a stack of new (and returning) rooftops, decks and riverside playgrounds are ready and waiting for those rare moments. Some will even welcome your needy lockdown pooch that has to be brought along on all social outings (although we recommend calling each venue to check if it's dog-friendly). Here's to the city slicker's version of the great outdoors.
The crew behind Pomelo were determined not to open a rooftop bar that felt undercooked, a place that leaned heavily on its views. Given they also opened the slick cocktail den Bouvardia this year and manager Dominic Gareffa comes from Attica, it's safe to say Pomelo is a cut-above. House seltzers take waste products from Bouvardia's cocktails and turn them into drinks such as Peaches and Cream or Ms. O Peel, a miso-tinged daiquiri seltzer utilising banana and lime byproduct. Creative rather than classic is the keyword. A serious line-up of pet-nats includes South Australian producer Ngeringa, the Yarra Valley's Friends of Punch and Fairbank from Sutton Grange. All of it is designed for sunny days surrounded by the clashing colours and prints of the 1980s-inspired decor.
Level 3, 169 Melbourne Place, Melbourne, pomelorooftop.com.au
The Q Rooftop Bar (CBD)
With a line-up of snacky Asian fare and three different margaritas, this spot makes a fine stopgap until you get the tropical holiday you've been craving. Part of new city hotel The Quincy, an export from Singapore, the 28th floor Q Rooftop boasts some seriously impressive views. But it's not resting on its laurels. Food ranges from smoked eel betel leaf to sticky chilli and garlic-coated chicken ribs with roasted rice. Cocktails profile lemongrass, yuzu and tropical flavours while sporting oh-so-Melbourne names like The Hook Turn and Under The Clocks. Beers are just as local and there's even a house gin made by Brunswick distillers Antagonist.
509 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, 03 9492 7400, quincymelbourne.com
Teller's dog-friendly beer garden. Photo: Kate Shanasy
Teller (Brunswick East)
This pub might be a recent addition to the area, but it's got plenty of old-timey touches that have it pegged for "reliable local" status, starting with the recently added beer garden. Wedged between Teller and its neighbours, it's a great spot to admire the building, originally a bank, and its early 20th-century heritage as you order rounds of Carlton Draught, rhubarb Spritz or CoConspirators hazy IPA. Food covers fancy plates (hello, cured ocean trout with dill and creme fraiche) as well as pub standards with three steaks, a half-chicken, burgers, and fish and chips on offer.
81 Lygon Street, Brunswick East, tellerbrunswickeast.com.au
Petanque Social (Southbank)
Would you like a side of sustainability with your riverside frolicking? Petanque Social has returned to Southbank this summer with some serious green cred to go with its loosely Tuscan theme. Reclaimed timber and cork feature heavily plus the summer pop-up is collecting rainwater, using solar energy to power fridges and putting its compost to good use in a worm farm. Drink garnishes come from an on-site garden, too. Pimms, spritzes and margaritas will go down a treat with Gradi pizza, Nobu fried chicken or a seafood platter in chic surrounds.
Crown Riverwalk, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank, crownmelbourne.com.au
Soldiers of 'nduja and cheese are part of the Italian-leaning snacks at GiGi Rooftop in Thornbury. Photo: HiSylvia Photography
Gigi Rooftop (Thornbury)
This northside rooftop with its pops of orange and green has landed on top of Umberto Espresso Bar just in time for summer. Given the team's track record (they also run Joanie's Baretto), you can expect a warm welcome and ice-cold Spritzes, but you're also in for skewers of South Australian sardines, cheesy soldiers spread with 'nduja and late-afternoon DJ sets. Cocktails are fun by name and nature: the Bananavardier is a case in point.
Upstairs, 917 High Street, Thornbury, gigirooftop.com.au
Pasta Poetry's courtyard, complete with a bocce green. Photo: Simon Shiff
Pasta Poetry (Fairfield)
You know that Pasta Poetry's team roll, fold and pleat delicate pasta to take home seven days a week. But now you can enjoy their handiwork in the sunny courtyard that's tucked beside St Paul's Church, and add on snacks, drinks and a game of bocce. The menu changes week to week but might include crostini, bagna cauda with seasonal vegetables, spaghetti tossed through capers, anchovies and chilli, or rigatoni with ragu bolognese. Just add a Monte-Negroni, featuring the Italian amaro of a similar name.
86 Station Street, Fairfield, pastapoetry.com.au
Arbory Afloat is open for business, with a pool deck, day lounges, olive trees and a Turkish-inspired menu. Photo: Parker Blain
Arbory Afloat (CBD)
On fine days, all roads lead to this annual summertime pop-up, which is styled this year on the resorts found along Turkey's Turquoise Coast where resident chefs Nada Thomas and Salim Gafayri spent their summer holidays as children, eating just-caught seafood you select yourself and plates of meze.
The siblings have delved into a family recipe book to bring some of those flavours to an Australian setting. Red lentil kofte are based on their mum's recipe while muhammara, a capsicum dip, is made the way their dad used to do it. The cracked wheat salad with grilled prawns is a riff on their sister's kisir. Other dishes are all their own, such as the adonai kebab that Gafayri spent weeks in lockdown perfecting or the pizzas that take Neapolitan-style bases and load them with Turkish ingredients like pomegranate molasses, susuk sausage and tulum cheese, many sourced directly from Turkey.
Whether you're poolside in a cabana or in the shade of one of the olive trees, a round of pomegranate Cosmopolitans, sumac-dusted calamari and fried fish sandwiches like those found in Istanbul are all you need to feel far, far away.
2 Flinders Walk, Melbourne, arboryafloat.com.au
Primrose & Vine (Essendon)
This northern suburbs wine store and bar got the green light from the local council to turn its drive-through into a wine bar from Thursday to Saturday, part of a push for more outdoor dining. The 32-seat addition complements the indoor bar, which opened last year, and will offer the same range of Italian, Spanish and French wines from a 250-strong cellar plus simple snacks, charcuterie, cheese and, if you're seeking more sustenance, pizzas delivered from nearby Il Caminetto.
80 Primrose Street, Essendon, primroseandvine.com.au
The view from new rootop bar, Fable. Photo: Aaron Francis
Fable calls itself Melbourne's highest rooftop bar, with views of the Arts Centre and the Bolte Bridge from its perch at the Hellenic quarter of the city. While we can't back up that claim, there's no harm in heading up 14 storeys and nabbing a plush salmon-coloured booth for the serious business of deciding what to eat and drink. Cocktails come with a full backstory and plenty of theatre, whether that's billows of steam, flames or a Trojan horse-inspired serving vessel. Mezze including halloumi with blistered grapes are prepared by chef Alex Xinis, who has clocked time at The Press Club and Michelin-starred venues in Greece. His dinner-worthy options include moussaka or lamb shoulder, with loads of gluten-free and vegan options available across food and cocktails. Party on.
Level 13, 168 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, fablemelbourne.com.au
Al Dente Enoteca (Carlton)
The pasta palace born out of a lockdown pivot has added 24 seats outside thanks to a deal with their friendly neighbour, Tabet's Bakery, which only trades during the day and was happy for Al Dente's marble-topped tables to be set up out front. Saved for walk-ins, they're a great option when spontaneity strikes. The full menu of refined pasta and modern Italian dishes is available, if you want to settle in with wagyu bresaola and melon or Moreton Bay bug spaghetti. Or you can make it a sunny afternoon pit-stop for Spritzes and snacks.
161-163 Nicholson Street, Carlton, aldenteenoteca.com
Runner Up rooftop bar in Collingwood has live DJs playing at a conversation-friendly volume, plus a focus on Italian wine. Photo: Kevin McDowell
Runner Up (Collingwood)
The latest addition to Collingwood Yards arts precinct is big on music, Italian drinks and a welcoming environment, with DJs playing most weekends from a set of decks built into the bar, their tunes piped through a set of 1990s Japanese speakers. A combination of generous booths inside, smaller tables in an inside-outside annex and decking with 270-degree views outside, Runner Up can accommodate 100 people. Italian-inspired cocktails feature top-shelf Australian spirits, such as Bloody Spritz featuring Four Pillars' cult shiraz gin and an Australiano: Okar bitters and sweet vermouth topped up with soda. Snacks are simple: crisps, things in tins, olives.
Level 2, 35 Johnston Street, Collingwood, runnerup.net.au
The Exchange Beach Club is a pop-up restaurant on the sand at Port Melbourne Dog Beach. Photo: Wayne Taylor
Exchange Beach Club (Port Melbourne)
Back for another year of fun and frolicking, this bayside pop-up by the nearby Exchange Hotel is here for all of Melbourne's escapist needs. Striped deckchairs? Check. Margaritas? Check. Prawns on a stick, lobster in a roll and ice-cream in a sandwich give things a local flavour. Then there are the extras like the dog-friendly policy and pooch treats, bookable cabanas, occasional Pilates classes, and midweek happy hour.
Dog Beach, Port Melbourne, exchangebeachclub.com.au