You know summer is near when Arbory Afloat returns. Every year the whopping Yarra River bar is completely rebuilt and reopens with a fresh look inspired by a balmy international spot.

In the past we’ve seen the 69-metre-long pontoon kitted out to evoke Palm Springs, the French Riviera, Italy’s Cinque Terre region and a Balearic beach club in Spain. For its eighth season on the Birrarung, it’s taken cues from Mexico City, Oaxaca, Tulum, and the tropical Yucatan Coast.

Pretty much every hue on the colour wheel is represented here – but fuchsia, bright green, and sunny yellow feature the most. The umbrellas are as bright as the Oaxacan buildings that inspired them. And the cocktail bar has a huge, cabana-style thatched roof.

Food-wise, start with something from the raw bar. Ease in with oysters dressed with a habanero oil mignonette, or go hard with a platter heaving with prawns, lobster, clams and scallops. There’s small dishes, from elotes – charred corn topped with cheese – to empanadas, chilaquiles and a daily tostada. The two-handed fun continues with tacos, which come filled with Baja-style battered fish, barbeque lamb shoulder, oyster mushroom, and al pastor pork shoulder straight off the spit. Pizzas incorporate Mexican ingredients such as Oaxaca cheese, jalapeno salsa and corn.

A Spicy Margarita or boozy hibiscus tea seem like natural pairings for the seasoned Arbory visitor. Frozen mango Margaritas, Espresso Martinis on tap, or a horchata-based twist on a Pina Colada will go down just as easily. Almost every cocktail is available by the carafe as well as by the glass. If you’d like to lower the ABV but stay spirited, there are also spritzes, G&Ts and non-alc options.

Arbory Afloat is by HQ Group, which owns Arbory, Her Bar, Her Rooftop and BKK.

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Updated: November 21st, 2023

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