Once upon a time The Carlton was a dive (not the trendy kind), with a bloody history. That is until owner Tracey Lester transformed it into a stylish city pub with a twist. The first thing you’ll notice here is the decorator’s penchant for taxidermy.
The old clientele wouldn’t have had much time for the new menu. It’s entirely vegetarian. But also kind of clever. Every vegetarian has eaten a mushroom burger, but what about zucchini pretzels? Or a beetroot-and-black-bean burger? Many of these options are also vegan, using cashew meat or tofu in place of cheese.
The drinks list is solid, with eight beers on tap, a wine list with enough options for most and some strange cocktails that round it out.
There’s a wooden deck protected from Bourke Street below with foliage that's 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, a few students next to a stuffed ostrich, and a couple of drag queens at home among 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 with a Copacabana fit-out, or the Hasti Bala Bar, also on the third floor.