134 Lygon St, Brunswick East
+61 3 9380 9003
If you ever wondered what the touristy end of Lygon Street used to be before it got all honky-tonk, wander north past Brunswick Road to Lygon Street in East Brunswick. There, custom furniture shops sit alongside funky hairdressers and neighbourhood bars flourish next door to old school social clubs.
Just north of the vibrant Brunswick Road – Edward Street precinct sits The Alderman, a quiet, unassuming place with a handful of tables and bar stools in the front bar and a scattering of seats through the back rooms. The dark wood panelling and simple bar area are inviting on a chilly late summer’s evening, when a deep purple shiraz seems more the order of the day than a cool gin and tonic.
I sit at a barstool by the window and watch the hipsters stroll by and roll by. I’ve just come from work and I feel deeply out of place in my corporate wear. Perhaps it’s not too late to pop next door to Rhubarb and get an interesting asymmetric bob or something?
The Alderman is mostly a modest drinking hole, but they serve a small list of snack-sized plates from the Sicilian place next door. A plate of salami sprinkled with EVOO looks tame enough, but there is a bite to the sausage that goes very well with my shiraz. The chickpea chips sound interesting, and out they come in an old-fashioned wooden bowl, perfect right-angled triangles of deep-fried loveliness drizzled with a tangy lemon mayonnaise. We order seconds. I am not a huge lover of arancini: I think it’s because they are reminiscent of a Scotch egg and no amount of perfectly sculpted rice will ever trump a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat and deep-fried. However this one is the nicest I’ve had in a while, and big enough for two to share.
There is a decent list of wines by the glass and the beer list is, I am told, a good one. A pretty good place for a quiet drink alone, a catch-up with friends or a rainy afternoon with a mulled wine and a good book.
>Atkins Drive, Fannie Bay, Darwin
It’s not the most sophisticated dining destination in Darwin, but by god it must have one of the best locations. The Darwin Trailer Boat Club is just a local boating club, with a simple bistro menu at excellent prices. You place your order with the lovely Dan at the cash register in the corner, wait until your number is called then go up and collect your dinner and fill up on salad and vegetables at the self-service counter. Nothing complicated, just good home-cooked food.
We got there in plenty of time for the sunset and sat outside at a trestle table in awe of the spectacular view across Fannie Bay. We could see already that it was going to be an amazing sunset. We bought a bottle of red (served chilled in true NT style), ordered our food and sat back to watch the show.
As the colours changed and the sun hung low in the sky on one of the most perfect St. Patrick’s Days I have ever had, we sipped our chilled shiraz and counted our blessings on having been sent here to work.
We were called for our dinner and I filled my plate with extra vegetables. It wasn’t gourmet food but with those views it was a perfect end to a perfect evening. Not even the Crocodile Warning on the steps down to the beach could dim my mood.
>292 Beaufort Street, Northbridge, Perth WA
A night out with old colleague Johnno, his partner Chrissie and Orlando in Perth was a welcome change from eating alone. Johnno recommended the Brisbane Hotel, having heard good things about it.
As is fitting for a Perth bar, much of the Brisbane’s footprint is outdoor seating. I guess that is a selling point on those balmy Mediterranean nights. In August, however, although the day had been warm and sunny, the nights are still cold, so we chose an outdoor table close to a heater for our drinks, ready to wander indoors when we ordered food.
At the bar the wines by the glass were decent enough. The three rather large cockroaches scuttling along high on the wall above the bar were a little off-putting though.
We drank and chatted and ordered food. Three of us went for the fish and chips, reputed to be the best in town. Orlando ordered a salmon Caesar salad. We were not disappointed. The fish was impossibly fresh and perfectly cooked in the lightest of tempura batter. The chips were fresh and hot. Orlando’s Caesar salad certainly looked the part, with a huge lump of char grilled salmon atop a tower of salad (which in itself was impressive).
The inside area was certainly not as atmospheric as the outside: we sat at a high table on bar stools like most others, and the layout implied a focus on large groups drinking rather than a more intimate gathering. Nonetheless, not a bad place to spend the evening when the importance was firmly on catching up, chatting and putting the world to rights.
>Buena Vista Social Club, 176 Cuba Street, Wellington
We were enticed by the dark wood frontage of this new bar on Cuba Street. At five o’clock on a cool Wellington evening, one for the road seemed like a good idea. We had the place to ourselves. From a narrow entrance the venue runs back a long way with an almost-black wooden bar running the length of the room. The mirrored shelves of bottles reached the high ceiling. The lights were dimmed. It reminded me of our favourite bar in Havana, Los Tres Hermanos, or indeed the actual Havana Club Bar.
In memory of our Cuba trip I ordered a Havana Club 7 anos, and Orlando (naturally) a Mount Gay Extra Old. We sat and sipped in the quiet. I imagine this is a much livelier place at night. The barman showed us the downstairs bar where they play live music or host DJs. Apparently the place is getting a good reputation for the music, although his recommendation of that evening’s offering (German reggae) didn’t entice us. Maybe they shouuld stick to their Musica Cubana nights…
With the most extensive selection of rums we saw in Wellington, I would suspect this would be a favourite haunt of ours on any future trip to Wellington.
>Box Bar, 32-34 Monmouth Garden, Covent Garden
This is a well-established gay haunt just off Seven Dials in the heart of Covent Garden. We visited mid-afternoon on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and the crowd was already spilled out on the pavement. The atmosphere outside was friendly, and the fashion was high.
I guess that the atmosphere inside would be cosier inside at night, but the bar staff were efficient and the choice of drinks was good. Only downfall was that the queue for the unisex toilets was quite lengthy, and it would have been a real pain in the ass except for that it was a fun crowd in the queue!
I am told that the fact that two blokes go into the loo at one time is more to do with recreational drugs than lifestyle, but whatever… I just don’t like waiting!
Dial Restaurant & Bar, 20 Monmouth Street, Covent Garden
This was a pretty cool restaurant just beside the Box Bar. We sat at a posh bar and drank cocktails – my new favourite is an espresso martini which is a regular martini mixed with one shot of espresso. Delish!
The crowd was well-dressed and cool, and the bar staff professional and knowledgable. Would love to come back again for an evening drink or even dinner in the restaurant next door. Good music too, and amazing toilets!!
Bunker, 41 Earlham Street, Covent Garden
This is a micro-brewery with the brewing equipment prominently displayed. We spent a pleasant evening in here before, but on the Sunday night we visited it was kind of empty and they had stopped serving food. There was no atmosphere and the music was too loud. Or are we getting old?…
Cafe Pacifico, 5 Langley Street, Covent Garden
This long-established Mexican restaurant is lively and cheerful, and the food is good. Music is Mexican of course, but entertaining. The best part is the cocktails which are generous and yummy!!!
>Sugar Reef, 42-44 Great Windmill Street, London W1V 7PA
The downstairs cocktail bar at Sugar Reef is popular amongst the after-owkr crowd for its happy hour until 7pm. With champagne cocktails at less than £4 and wine at £8 a bottle, it’s not a bad place to start the evening.
The upstairs restaurant looks modern and trendy, and their new “Dynamic Dining” policy is definitely worth looking into. The earlier in the week you eat, the cheaper your food! Mains start off at £6 on a Monday, rising to £12 on a Saturday.
Crowd was hard to measure as it was all after-work. Music was so low you couldn’t hear it and all the seats were taken by pre-booked parties. But for a couple of quick cocktails to start the evening off you could do worse. http://www.sugarreef.net/
Boulevard Brasserie, 40 Wellington Street, London WC2E 7BD
The brasserie’s downstairs wine bar is cosy if a little claustrophic with the low ceiling. Happy hour until 7.30pm offer half-price wines by the bottle – but beware – the prices are slightly inflated compared to the upstairs restaurant so you are really paying more than half-price.
Crowd was a bit odd. The blokes were congregated around the tiny bar and the girls were meeting in twos at the tables.
The upstairs restaurant was lively enough, and the food excellent. Nothing spectacular overall, but not a bad place to meet and have a chat.
Freuds Wine Bar, Basement, 198 Shaftesbury Avenue
This bar, café and gallery is hidden away in a tiny basement up the High Holborn end of Shaftesbury Avenue, is easily overlooked. Inside you will see minimalist décor – bare concrete walls displaying various artists’ work, and basic seating.
The crowd is studenty/arty. But the cocktail list is excellent and the measures big. The toilets are absymal and the music variable. Drop in here for good Mojitos and knowledgeable bar staff who know what a Long Beach Iced Tea is without asking.