You might notice a faint smell of engine oil when you walk into Paradise Alley, a new bar inside a large Collingwood share-space warehouse on Easey Street, which opened in May. But don’t be alarmed, a quick peep through the small oval window beside the bar quickly reveals its origin – the motorcycle repair shop in the neighbouring space.
Owner Laura Twomey (ex-City Wine Shop, French Saloon) has managed to keep much of the original spirit of the old warehouse intact (it was a board-game manufacturer) and hasn’t done what so often is in situations like this: treat it as an empty lot.
A pair of gates opens into a narrow, colourful, slightly dank alleyway that leads to the entrance through the side of the building. The alley is also a 35-seat beer garden, watched over by a large nude mural, and a row of sneakers hanging from an overhead pipe. Twomey is the first to admit the name Paradise Alley is a bit of a gag.
Inside, Twomey has enlisted her handiest friends to help with the fit-out. Most things were built from scratch, such as the Victorian ash timber bar, the intricately welded steel and copper drinks display and the booths in the slightly divey 25-seat pool room.
There’s a strong sharing-is-caring aspect to Twomey’s business model. She inhabits the space with several other businesses, including the upstairs Backwoods Gallery.
“It’s all very communal here,” says Twomey.
Everyone seems to play a role (even if that means just hanging around for a beer).
Food, which you can order from the behind the bar, is available from the neighbouring Little Latin Lucy, on the other side of the warehouse. Here Renee Trudeau (previously Huxtable, Clever Polly's, Gertrude Street Enoteca) cooks up South American street dishes such as lamb ribs that are marinated in spiced mole and smoked for around five hours. And cured and smoked duck tacos served with grilled pineapple salsa and slow-cooked onions in tortillas from La Tortilleria.
There’s also a small deli, Casati’s, which stays open until 3pm each day, serving cafe-regulars such as pastries, toasted sandwiches, various cold cuts and three different types of roasted coffee. Its owner, Peter Casati, is also preparing to launch a beer label from the microbrewery inside the warehouse – which you can see into from the bar – using his glistening pride and joy: a 50-litre brewing system he built himself at his Heidelberg engineering workshop Gonzlab.
You’ll be able to buy Casati’s beer at Paradise Alley once the paperwork clears. For now, in addition to five original cocktails, Twomey has an all-Australian tap line-up currently pouring Moon Dog Brewery’s Love Tap larger, Quiet Deeds IPA, Young Henrys cloudy cider and Coopers Green.
Or there’s Twomey’s current favourite, the aromatic, slightly chocolaty Cavalier brown ale, which is brewed and bottled a couple of suburbs over in Brunswick.
She also recommends the house red, a 2015 Casale Giovannino sangiovese, unapologetically served from a box either by the glass or – even less apologetically – in a one-litre beaker.
“They’re the best decanters,” says Twomey. “It doesn’t need to be crystal to taste good.”
Twomey also holds pub-night activities. Wednesday night, for example, is meat-tray raffle night, where $5 puts you in the running for a $300 mix tray from Meatsmith, with proceeds going to local charities. Twomey is also hoping to get a Chase the Ace night happening – with real cash winnings up for grabs.
Maybe this is paradise after all.
Paradise Alley & Little Latin Lucy
25 Easey Street, Collingwood
(03) 9029 8484
Wed to Fri 4pm–1am
0413 017 761
Mon to Fri 7am–3pm
Sat & Sun 8am–3pm
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