There is a peculiar mania that seems to come over Melburnians when the sun finally, blessedly and generally briefly pokes its way through the clouds. Wandering down the street, one gets the feeling that people are having to actively suppress the urge to just break into a jog and start high-fiving everybody they pass. When the sun comes out everybody starts looking about with a loosely unhinged glint in their eyes as though implicit that this requires you to enjoy its warmth with a drink in hand. Fortunately Melbourne is exceedingly well equipped with places to bask in the precious sunlight for a refreshing ale. Here’s a selection of the best in the CBD area.
Including Rooftop in a list like this borders upon cliché – can there possibly be anyone left in Melbourne who has never been? But the place is a Melbourne icon for good reason. Crowded but never too crowded, easy going and, most of all, relentlessly sunny, there are few places in Melbourne that make drinking on a summer’s afternoon such an unadorned pleasure. Perhaps the only real criticism one could level at it is the rather unfortunately placed nearby skyscraper that destroys the sunlight for 45 minutes each evening, but it’s a small price to pay for being able to recline on astroturf 50 odd metres above the ground. Moreover, the recently installed Beatbox Kitchen means that the place now hosts one of Melbourne’s more exceptional burger experiences as well.
While increasing competition from the ever expanding suite of rooftop bars means that Section 8 isn’t quite as essential a summertime experience as it was a few years back, it still remains one of the coolest outdoor drinking holes that Melbourne has to offer. An unpalatably hectic affair on Friday and Saturday nights, the place comes into its own in the afternoons, a relentlessly easy going assemblage of converted pallets, graffiti style, cool but unpretentious patrons, sunshine hip-hop and frosty beers. Treat yourself to a Schofferhoffer, sit back and watch the afternoon drip by.
Match is a strange one. The Melbourne iteration of a chain of bars that also includes locations in London and Ibiza, the place is certainly subject to a degree of the manufactured cool that you might expect from such a formula. The interior is faux-vintage brown and tends toward the static and glitzy, while the soundtrack is filled with stirring, easy bar listening. However, and this is a mighty caveat, the place also has what is, by far one of the best balconies in Melbourne. Overlooking the always impressive facade of the State Library, and all the sprawling activity that often goes on in the grass out the front, there is something rather rewarding about the experience of sipping that knock-off G&T while watching the sun cascade over Melbourne’s premier centre of knowledge. The cocktail list is also rather extensive.
Boldly declaring that elevation above ground level isn’t a necessary component of a superlative outdoor bar experience, Trunk is an oft-noted, offering in the CBD. Built into and around a grand, high ceiling, 1850s era synagogue – and accompanying era coral tree, hence ‘Trunk’ - these days the place comes alive through its generously appointed courtyard, an oddly exposed area with superb views on to the surrounding footpath that still manages to feel tight knit and convivial. With a dinning area or bar food to accompany that drink, and a Diner in the courtyard, Trunk is a more than worthy destination from lunchtime onwards.
Built over four levels of varying charisma, Campari House is at its best when it stops trying to be so stylish and focuses on the drinks, food and mod-grass parts of its persona i.e. the roof of the building. While lacking the sheer scale of Rooftop Bar, the Campari House rooftop is an enjoyably subdued affair, a sequence of umbrellas and small barrels-as-tables set against an intimately close backdrop of offices, warehouses and other assorted urban fare. And I do mean intimate: you could almost jump through the windows of the closest neighbours. Not that I’d recommend it, mind you. Anyway, it’s a pleasingly anarchic backdrop to have, a delightfully proximate contrast between the drudgery of everyday life and the drinks and tasty pizza that you’re imbibing as you wallow in the afternoon sun. Not always the first venue to leap to mind when one thinks of the available rooftops in this city, but it can more than hold its own against the competition.
Siglo is the sort of place that you often don’t think about until it’s far past a sensible hour to call your night done (because, 2am Monday or not, you definitely needed that fine, profoundly expensive Irish whiskey), but to treat it merely as a post-midnight go-to point is to ignore one of the finest after work venues currently doing the rounds. While generally populated with the sorts of people whose cufflinks cost more than your monthly rent, the spectacle of the early evening sun glancing off the State Parliament while the remarkably attentive staff serve up expertly mixed aperitifs is hard to beat. A joy, even with the occasionally extravagant pricing structure.