438 Church St Richmond, VIC 3121
|Features||Bar, Outdoor seating|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Cash, Visa, Mastercard|
|Drinks||Cocktails, Craft beers|
|Phone||03 9078 1407|
Cuba, so hot right now. The land of cigars, rum and last year's epic Rihanna cover in Vogue is also the sharp lime in the coconut that is Richmond's latest cocktail party, the Palm Royale.
Serious drinkers know this address. It was once booze artist Matt Bax's internationally acclaimed cocktail bar Der Raum, and then his rum brothel Bar Economico, with tiny, oddball, Wes Anderson-ish Bar Exuberante out back.
Now, it's bar number two from Adam Paurini and Ryan Simpson of Windsor's tiki-bar-in-a-sandwich-shop, Jungle Boy. To enter, you'll need to punch a buzzer on Church Street. Beyond, it's a lime green and blue paradise of exotic stuffed birds and faux-liage, with David Denton and Dean Jarvis on stick.
Gone are the austere cages of Economico. Palm trees prop up a line of tables facing a bar, now glistening and ringed with panama hats and boxes of cigars.
There is definitely a nod to Castro. Those cigars are for sale – Cohibas and Romeo y Julietas, which you can take outside to huff in the atrium. But Palm Royale is more a non-denominational tropical party than a strict ode to Havana.
The beers might be a local fruity number from Kaiju, Hawaiian Kona or Red Stripe, pride of Jamaica. Sure, there is a lot of rum on offer, and one of the two cocktails on tap is a coconut-infused Cuba Libre (aka rum and Coke with a hit of lime), but you're as likely to be drinking it to the tune of Tears for Fears and the Bangles as the Buena Vista Social Club.
To that end, cocktails are a mix of classics that hit the sweeter end of the spectrum, executed mostly well. So there is a Mary Pickford of rum, grenadine, maraschino and pineapple that is more sweet than sharp, or an El Presidente – white rum and Cointreau stirred down with vermouth that's a little lighter than you may expect. In Melbourne's grand pina colada stakes, you can file Palm Royale's icy yardglass of rum and pineapple whizzed with ice-cream, nutmeg and salt under dessert for alcoholics.
If your tastes veer dark and bitter, you'll need to hit the negroni on tap, or just ask them to throw you an off-menu red hook or manhattan, which they're happy to do. They'll also sling you a (slightly pricey at $12) basket of limey guacamole and chilled tortilla chips, or some bread and olive oil. When the kitchen is approved, that will be upgraded to loaded fries and Cubanos, the grilled pork and ham sandwiches immortalised in the movie Chef.
The big question is, can tropical tiki trump rum brothel? It's quiet now, but not for long. This team knows fun. Hopefully Richmond does, too.
Eat this Loaded fries (when they arrive)
Drink this Salted caramel pina colada ($20)
Know this Until food arrives, hit Belle's, Mahalo Poke or Feast of Merit for dinner
Say this "Remarkable bird, the Norwegian Blue."
Pina coladas, Jamaican beers and a flush of stuffed parrots
Vibe: It's a non-denominational tropical party
Go-to Dish: Salted caramel pina colada - and loaded fries are coming