If you remember Hawthorn as a handful of uni bars and a string of cheap, late-night place to eat, it’s time to revisit. While the aforementioned staples remain, the past year alone has seen popular offshoots arrive: cult ramen house Hakata Gensuke Ramen, frozen yogurt go-to Yo-Chi and Fonda's fourth Mexican eatery. Now, it’s time for a nightcap.
Hawthorn’s newest watering hole, The Kilburn, is bringing new life to the former cigar bar Baranows Lounge in a building with a heritage façade and lots of character and charm. Owner Ben Baranow built the former cigar haunt with his father. The venue was involved in an ongoing battle over licencing laws to allow patrons to spark up inside. So Baranow saw an opportunity to take over the family business, extinguish the smoke and revitalise the space.
The bar’s name draws on the unique history of a landmark building once considered to be on the outskirts of Melbourne. When 19th-century pioneer architect Edward John Kilburn built Hawthorn's Commercial Bank of Australia in 1887, it’s unlikely he envisioned being named in the building's 21st-century revamp, or that the building would be turned into a cocktail and whisky bar. There is a wall of spirits encompassing more than 600 whiskies and a back room dedicated to group tastings. The stylish arrangement of leather furniture, forest-green accents and warm brass light fittings makes this the perfect place to curl up with a Ploughman's Plate (freshly sliced meat, cheese, pickles and chutney) and a smoky scotch.
“I’ve been collecting whisky for the past five-plus years,” says Baranow. The current offering of tapas-style bar food will later extend to thin-crust pizzas made by neighbouring restaurant, Santoni Pizza. However, it’s the drinks list you’ll keep coming back for. The Kilburn’s boilermaker menu, a selection of craft beer and whisky matches, will rotate on a monthly basis.
A clever cocktail list casts contemporary spins on the classics, much like the aesthetic of The Kilburn itself. Cocktails such as Killer Burns (a 12 year old Balvenie single malt infused with truffled honey and chrysanthemum ginger bitters), uses The Kilburn’s exemplary supply of whisky and bourbon.
“We don't want locals to have to travel to the city and back for a decent nip,” says Baranow. “And those who think the CBD is the only place to have a unique experience can find a suburban oasis dedicated to the creation of fine things.”