The three-level heritage building built in the 1840s at 2 Mill Place has a storied past. It’s housed everything from a soap and candle factory to the Flemington Meat Preserving Company and a flour mill. Now it’s been transformed into Mill Place Merchants, a prohibition-era-style speakeasy with an on-theme secret entrance.

“It’s got blue stone walls, concrete floors, timber pillars, the original metal beams from the 1840s, when the building was constructed,” director Pawaan Engineer says of the historic building down Flinders Lane. “So, we tried to fit a concept to the venue, which gave respect to the building that’s already there.”

Guests first arrive at a vintage dressing room plastered in period wallpaper and filled with old-school furniture, luggage and mannequins. A floor-length mirror disguises a hidden sliding door that leads to the speakeasy’s low-lit, intimate space.

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Original bluestone walls and exposed timber pillars contrast with cushioned vintage chairs, patterned rugs and intricate wallpapers. Antique accessories, shaded lamps and steel chandeliers add to the period feel.

The food and cocktail menus are inspired by dishes and drinks from prohibition-era North America and Europe.

The drinks list is by Italian bartender Giancarlo Mancino, who drew inspiration from legendary bartenders of the19th and 20th centuries like Harry MacElhone, owner of Harry’s Bar in Paris in the 1920s, and Jerry Thomas, the New York City bartender who published the first known bar manual in 1862.

“We went back in time and tried to look at books from the late 1800s that had these recipes,” says Engineer. “We’re using exactly the same recipes now, but with good quality ingredients and proper technique, making sure that the drinks are presented with the proper homage to these original guys.”

The final list includes six classics and nine custom cocktails. Alongside favourites like Espresso Martinis and Gibsons, there’s the Pink Lady with gin, applejack, lime juice and grenadine; the Opera Cocktail with gin, dubbonet, mandarin liqueur and orange bitters; and the elaborate Russian Spring Punch, mixed with fresh raspberries, crème de framboise, crème de cassis, vodka, lemon juice and champagne.

To eat, there’re small dishes including pickled vegetables served with whipped cod roe and party pies filled with either steak, onion and ale, or cauliflower, leek and cheese.

For something bigger there’s fried chicken with blue cheese and bourbon dip served with celery and radicchio and topped with parmesan. And charcuterie boards with local cured meats, cheeses and terrine.

Beyond the period theme, Engineer says he hopes guests experience a welcoming space. “Food is a big element. Drinks are a big element. Ambience is a big element. But the biggest thing we want to offer is old-school hospitality.”

Mill Place Merchants
2 Mill Place, Melbourne
0451 332 211

Tue & Wed 5pm–midnight
Thu & Fri 4pm–1am
Sat 5pm–1am