The large, stark shell that belies the Gin Palace's true nature, has been serving well as a disguise for since 1997. A combination of velvet, dim lighting and plush seating brings words like opulent and luxurious to mind, softening sharp edges and making for a roomy, basement cocktail bar.
But while the decadent design may emulate a time when the term Gin Palace referred to an undesirable drinking house, it’s safe to say that in this case the name is ironic enough. In fact, the luxurious location holds up well against newer, more pared-back Melbourne bars.
The background music stays below conversation-killing level and is simultaneously smooth and lively. Polite, uniformed waiting staff ferry drink trays from the bar to the scattering of tables and private nooks. It makes for a swanky affair, one well suited to first, or even last, drinks, thanks to an early morning close.
Gin is, quite rightly, the focus of the extensive drinks menu. A page purely for martinis is followed by a double spread devoted to the Palace’s spirited namesake. But gin-less cocktails aren’t entirely neglected and range from cooler, fruity concoctions to the perfect winter warmer: a mug of warm, spiced and buttered pear cider.