Hats and Tatts

Ironically seedy: The made-under bar.
Ironically seedy: The made-under bar. Photo: Arsineh Houspian

78 Cecil St South Melbourne, VIC 3205

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Opening hours Wed-Sat 4pm-1am; Sun 2pm-10pm
Features Bar, Licensed
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)

"If you don't get the sign, then you don't get us," Jason Chan says affably, pointing to the blue neon slogan scribbled over the bar of his "frat house dive", Hats and Tatts.

The sign reads "Derelicte My Balls", a quote from the movie Zoolander, which lampoons fashionable folk passing off common rubbish as "homeless chic" at twice the price. Of course, that's exactly what's going on here, which might be precarious except that everyone seems to get the joke.

Such ironically down-at-heel bars are big business right now – check out Leonard's House of Love, the Beaufort, Heartbreaker and now this crumbling pub that's been made-under to resemble a seedy American boozer.

Winner: the All In Tray includes pulled pork, chicken wings and brisket.
Winner: the All In Tray includes pulled pork, chicken wings and brisket. Photo: Arsineh Houspian

Cheesy baseball caps are pinned to the wall (you can try one on!), there's an Addams Family pinball machine, vintage '80s wrestling on the TV, shameless party tunes, even replicas of those Back to the Future 2 Nikes sit among 450 bottles of well-selected spirits. Yes, 450 bottles. It's like a teenager has opened the bar of his dreams.

While it might look thrown together, it's been masterminded by dudes with serious hospo cred. Chan is an ideas man. Plenty of his projects never materialise, and it seemed for a time like that might be the case with Hats and Tatts. But after a year of delays while ancient walls were fortified to support the spirits collection, it's all come together.

His partners, Chris Stock and Wizey Baleitavuki, have a string of venues behind them, including the nearby Railway Hoteland Golden Monkey in Hardware Lane.

Irony aside, the drinks are good, especially a house-made gin, raspberry and ginger cocktail poured from a tap and carbonated to order. There are more than a dozen beers, including 'Merican brands Coors and Sierra Nevada. Dude-food snacks such as burgers and tater tots arrive in ubiquitous red plastic baskets while the satisfying "All In Tray" is divided with juicy pulled pork, crisp chicken wings, smoky brisket, slaw, pickles and triangles of buttered white bread. Winner.  

It's certainly a brave and original venture, with plenty of fun to be had as long as you don't expect prices to match the decor. If you don't like it, you probably just don't get it.

Drink this Floradora cocktail, $16
Eat this All In Tray, $34
Say this "This is exactly like a bar I went to in Bushwick."
Know this It's better when it's busy (late nights, Sundays).

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