Australia's best nightlife and bars can be found in Melbourne

From laneway bars to rooftop cocktails with a view, nobody does bar and nightlife like Melbourne can. The city that protested against lock out laws in 2008 has one of the most thriving late-night scenes in the country and everyone's pulling up a bar stool to get in on the action.

It's where former strip clubs are converted into live music venues (true story) and 24 party people can kick out the jams way past their bedtime.

Sites of indulgence

Shannon Bennett, alongside his landlord and partner Lorenzo Groll are taking a leaf out of Cherry Bar's rock'n'roll DNA, plonking their new Geddes Lane Ballroom on the party strip of King Street in Melbourne. But instead of crusty metal heads body slamming to Motorhead and Thin Lizzy, they're pitching to the cashed-up Generation Now.

Housed in the 170-year-old bluestone building where '80s venue Grainstore Tavern once lived, Bennett says the emphasis is on saluting nostalgia.

This is where the Japanese Slipper - invented at Mietta's in Melbourne back in 1984 – is back with a vengeance. There's vending machines you can't find anywhere else too - with homemade popcorn, sandwiches and champagne.

The laneway bar typifies Melbourne

Shannon Bennett

"The laneway bar typifies Melbourne," says Bennett of his latest business outing.

"We want to create a place where people can come to a gig and have something good to eat. We already do food well and wanted to raise the ante in the live music scene because you can't get that anywhere else," he says.

Sneaky peek

Aussie music producers Peking Duk, aka Adam Hyde and Reuben Styles, have teamed with Steven Hiles (the man behind the transformation of The Horse in Surry Hills, Sydney) and chef James McCall for an intimate late-night dining and bar venue titled Talk to Me which opens Melbourne Cup Week in South Yarra.

Hyde, who relocated to Melbourne six months ago after a six-year stint in Sydney, said he was waiting for the right moment to move from the decks to bar ownership.


"Rueben and I used to drink at Less Than Zero, opposite The Cullen Hotel, when we played shows or had studio time in Melbourne," says Hyde.

"What I love is that it's just off the madness of Chapel Street, inspired by our travels to New York and a Shanghai bar called Parrot. We want to create a party space with cool music."

A rotating lineup of DJs will take over the decks from 10pm but further down the track there's plans for live music.

Projecting style

Across the Yarra, hidden in an industrial warehouse converted into a contemporary art gallery and bar in Collingwood is where you'll find Grau Projekt by Matthew Bax – who gave us Der Raum in the early 2000s and later Bar Americano in the CBD.

The space opens next month, featuring a rotating lineup of artists whose works will be on show and for sale. Ticketed from $35 to $85 [that's two drinks and an entry fee], you're guaranteed the artistic ride of your life. You get to see a new exhibition, are treated to a fancy cocktail that vibes off the artist's philosophical intentions [and created by Bax himself] and you take home a limited-edition artist tote bag too.

Taking one of the city's ugliest buildings and turning it into a playground for a burgeoning art scene is no accident. Bax took his inspiration from art collectors Christian and Karen Boros – who 15 years ago sought a home for their 700-piece contemporary collection in Europe.

"People have been waiting a long time for Der Raum to return, and while this isn't Der Raum it's the closest thing…and now it's up to Australia to get behind it," he says.

On the roof

And on a rooftop above Melbourne Central is where Jerome Borazio freestyles into his latest project Reunion Island Pool Club – where plunge pools, yoga and cocktails rule the city skyline with the addition of palm trees too.   

Guests can book a private pool party starting this week. There's pop-up burgers and cocktails aplenty – but according to Borazio the concept has more to do with wellness and connecting with nature than LA party vibes for hipsters. Although we're sure they'll follow.

"Yes, there's alcohol and food but it's focus is on a wellness program as well," says Jerome Borazio who says you can visit the recreation centre for some tai-chi and iced tea too.

The venue, which will run from October to April is a chance to embrace some green turf and take a dive when you need to escape the city's concrete grid.  

"It's about going for a swim, disconnecting from your office or gathering with friends to chill by the pool. I've been a resident of the city of Melbourne for 20 years and a space like this is long overdue," he says.

"I'd love to do something like this in Sydney, but it's about finding the right venue."