The lights, the swirl, the laughter, the dizziness of the circus. Welcome to Archie Brothers Cirque Electriq. If the minigolf explosion of Funlab’s Holey Moley or the future-retro B. Lucky and Sons weren’t quite enough to blow out your senses, then its new circus-slash-arcade bar might be just the place.
Barely any surface is free of games, lights or mirrors. Popcorn and fairy floss scents are piped through the air conditioning. Seriously. Bespoke sideshow-themed works by Melbourne artist Sandra Eterovic are scattered around. There are 67 arcade games all up, including Mario Kart, Skee-Ball and air hockey. There’s a virtual-reality ride, or you can squad up and shoot zombies in an interactive 3D movie theatre. Six bowling lanes feature 3D-mapped projections that turn your ball into a comet shooting through space, or make it seem like it’s rolling over piano keys (not sure why, but it’s still pretty neat). The dodgem cars are relatively tame, except for the wall-to-ceiling convex mirrors that make it feel like you’re being watched by a giant fly as you bash your way about.
The food here is equally overwhelming. It’s described by the Funlab team as “circus-cum-theme park-cum-American diner grub”, which is borderline too many hyphens for one menu. But everything here is pushed to the extreme. There’s a burger with beef, bacon and pulled pork (one burger); a cheese kransky hotdog with beef chilli, chilli mayo and jalapeno; and potato gems dusted with cheese powder and caramelised garlic aioli. If your food isn’t loaded to your satisfaction you can add syringes of extra sauce and cheese.
To drink there’s beer and wine. But you won’t see them talked about much – instead you’ll be encouraged to hit super-sweet cocktails such as the Shark Tanq (gin, blue curacao, lime, coconut syrup, egg white, orange bitters, and coconut and berry flavoured Red Bull, topped off with gummy shark lollies) that will no doubt be flooding social feeds soon. It’s nice to see a few non-alcoholic cocktails that are just as elaborate, garnished with fairy floss, whipped cream or lollies.
Funlab CEO Michael Schreiber says he’s well aware Archie Bros isn’t a fine diner, and it’s all about having an “over the top experience”. They’ve nailed the brief.
Games are played using cash cards purchased at the bar (you can’t get refunds but they are valid for 12 months), and you can win tickets to redeem at the gift shop. With enough prize tokens you can pick up an original Nintendo 64, vintage Star Trek figures, a Ghostbusters Ecto-1 replica, nostalgic lollies, plush toys and more.
This is the second iteration of Archie Brothers. The first launched in Sydney last year, Schreiber says this version benefits from a fit-out created from scratch, rather than having to work with an existing space.
“We were able to put all the components where they best fit, work out what the customer journey and the customer experience were going to be,” Schreiber says. “So from that perspective it’s a much easier and much more fluid customer experience. Everything is in the right spot.”
He also tells us this isn’t the final state for Archies. Funlab is already looking to invest in new experiences to add to the chaos. “[We’ll] invest around 25 per cent every year up front to keep it fresh and to keep the latest and greatest games going in the whole time,” he says. “The aim is to keep the environment changing so every time you go back it looks different and the layout is different.”
Schreiber calls Archie Bros a place for kids and adults (it becomes 18 and over at 8pm) alike to “put down the phone” and step away from social media. But with the number of screens, and lights, and the amount of noise and Insta-suited opportunities, it feels more like stepping inside the phone than stepping away from it.
Archie Brothers Cirque Electriq
The District, 440/440 Docklands Drive, Docklands
1300 888 386
Sun to Thu 12pm–10pm
Fri & Sat 12pm–late