Plenty of name restaurateurs have opened well-conceived bars in the past couple of years. Ronnie Di Stasio celebrated his restaurant's 25th birthday by opening Bar Di Stasio (31 Fitzroy St, St Kilda, 03 9525 3999) right next door. The elegant, stark space has its own superb menu and beautifully made drinks. Andrew McConnell's wine bar above Cumulus Inc., Cumulus Up, has a dark and glamorous fit-out, a menu laced with future classics (hello duck waffles) and an interesting, trend-conscious wine list.
Simon Denton's Japanese-styled beauty, Hihou (level 1, 1 Flinders La, Melbourne, 03 9654 5465), melds intricate joinery, classic cocktails retooled with a Ginza twist and pretty bar food. Also part of the restaurateur-turned-barkeep club is Ombra (76 Bourke St, Melbourne, 03 9639 1927), the Grossi family's salumi bar that offers rustic snacks and an interesting list ranging across Italy and beyond.
Both Gertrude Street Enoteca (229 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, 03 9415 8262) and former GT Bar of the Year Gerald's (386 Rathdowne St, Carlton North, 03 9349 4748) fly the flag for wine-centric local bars in their respective areas. They're now also linked through Bellota (181 Bank St, South Melbourne, 03 9078 8381), where Enoteca's Brigitte Hafner built the menu and Gerald Diffey consulted on the design of the wine bar owned by (and next door to) the Prince Wine Store.
The bar at Diffey's new restaurant, Brooks, mixes fine and sharp cocktails, while the bar at The Crimean (351 Queensbury St, North Melbourne, 03 9329 3353), is all about Eastern European hooch. The Everleigh (level 1, 150-156 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, 03 9416 2229), GT's Bar of the Year last year, has opened a second bar to cater for crowds thirsty for brilliant cocktails in vintage glass, while Hannah's Bar, upstairs at Epocha (49 Rathdowne St, Carlton, 03 9036 4949), offers backgammon, park views and a snappy drinks list.
For niche lovers, Milk the Cow (157 Fitzroy St, St Kilda, 03 9537 2225) is a smart licensed fromagerie, perfect for late-night cheese cravings, while Whisky & Alement (270 Russell St, Melbourne, 03 9654 1284) is all about the malts.
The loss of Richmond cocktail standard-setter Der Raum is mitigated in part by the appearance in its place of Bar Economico (438 Church St, Richmond), a rough-and-ready "rum bordello" from the same owners that's as ballsy as its predecessor was buttoned-down. We'll take a double.
Looking for more Melbourne dining options? Check out our list of the best restaurants in Melbourne.