Blink and you’ll miss it. Along Market Street in the CBD, facing a greenery-filled courtyard, is an inconspicuous glass door. Behind it is a wall covered in clocks of all shapes and sizes, where you’ll find a hidden, dimly lit staircase that spirals downwards.

The light at the end of the stairwell comes from Curious, the subterranean cocktail bar that’s part of the W Melbourne hotel, which opened in 2021. The walls and ceiling are blanketed in dark-timber beams, creating an intimate cocoon-like feel.

Top Aussie bartender Charlie Ainsbury, of indie spirits distributor Proof & Co, has crafted a cocktail list that draws on three distinct facets of Melbourne culture. That includes drinks inspired by coffee (the Ristretto is St Ali cold brew, cacao-butter vodka and nutmeg smoke encased in a bubble that pops when you sip it), fashion (there’s a well-rounded but zero-alcohol number called the Silouette), and art (a colorful depiction of Andy Warhol is painted on the foam of a tropical drink of gin, almond milk and coconut).

There’s nothing too hefty on the food menu, save for a free-range pork katsu sando with coleslaw. It’s mostly about snacks here, and they’re divided into cold, warm, cheese and charcuterie. There’s a tuna pizzetta with creme fraiche and truffle ponzu; grass-fed beef tartare with mustard su-miso (a Japanese vinegar and miso dressing) and a nori cracker; and an Italian take on the taco with bolognaise and Parmigiano Reggiano.

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Updated: January 19th, 2024

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