Speaking frankly, The Carlton was a dive, with a bloody history. That’s until owner Tracey Lester got a hold of it and transformed into a stylish city pub with a twist. (The first thing you notice here is the decorator’s apparent penchant for taxidermy.)
The drinks list is solid, with eight beers on tap and a wine list with enough options for the not-too-fussy; some weird and wonderful cocktails round it out. The dining menu consists of everything from bar snacks to hearty, filling steaks (all of which are half-price on Mondays!) – you just have to find room among the plastic chairs to devour it. There’s a wooden deck protected from Bourke Street with foliage and is a great spot on a balmy evening. The crowd here can be quite wonderful, almost like a surprise packet of mixed lollies: you might see a few suits quenching a hard-earned thirst, the hipster crowd enjoying the irony of the stuffed ostrich, and a couple of drag queens at home amongst the flamboyance.
If you’re here on warm Fridays or Saturdays you might be inclined to keep climbing the stairs to Palmz, the Carlton’s rooftop bar, complete with a copacabana fit out.