Melbourne rooftop bars are well equipped with outdoor heaters, large umbrellas, retractable roofs and warming drinks (some even have igloos) for year-round enjoyment, but there’s no better season to visit our finest rooftops than summer.
If you’ve already made your way through Melbourne’s best rooftop bars this season, there are a few stellar newbies that have opened in the last few months. Here’s your refreshed hit list for those final long summer days.
Years in the making, the Arbory Bar & Eatery team has finally opened the doors to its five-storey CBD mega-venue. There’s a French-inspired eatery, a Thai-style barbeque canteen called BKK and a vinyl-stacked “music room”, but the open-air oasis is where you want to spend your time. Perched on top of a heritage-listed former cigarette factory, the rooftop bar features a tile mosaic by Sydney ceramicist Eytan Messiah, Italian marble floors, orange velvet banquettes and Parisian-inspired skirted stools. There’s a snacky menu of rock oysters and barbequed skewers courtesy of BKK downstairs, plus fruity cocktails like a grapefruit Paloma on tap.
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One of Melbourne’s newest rooftop bars is also one of its highest, with uninterrupted city views. It’s 13 floors up in the Greek Community building at the top end of the CBD, and the menu leans Greek and Mediterranean, inspired by its heritage. Alex Xinis, former chef at now-closed The Press Club, heads the kitchen, which serves calamari with ouzo mayonnaise, lentil and eggplant moussaka and lamb shoulder with horiatiki, a Greek salad. Over half of the offering is gluten-free and can be made vegan, and the same goes for the drinks.
The team behind Carlton nightclub Colour is also behind Runner Up, the new rooftop bar at 140-year-old former technical school turned arts hub, Collingwood Yards. Though you can push the boat out with options like a $260 magnum of cuvee, there’s also tap wine, beer and a Bicicletta cocktail (rosé, Campari and soda) for just $9. The food is also reasonably wallet-friendly and on the lighter side, with snacks like tinned fish, dolmades and Chappy’s Chips.
Upstairs from ridiculously pretty cocktail bar Bouvardia is the colourful Pomelo, a new rooftop bar serving $8 boozy slushies and hard seltzers canned in-house (they’re best enjoyed simultaneously, we’re told). Between the zippy paint job, fun waste-free cocktails and pét-nats, there’s a candy-shop vibe to the sun-drenched space, just as the team envisioned. “Basically, the idea with this venue was just to throw everything at it. All the colour and every single drink we’d like to drink on a rooftop,” says venue manager Dom Garreffa.
Thornbury’s beloved Umberto Espresso Bar has expanded – upwards. And the outlook at its tiny new rooftop bar is unlike most in Melbourne: less CBD skyscrapers and more sweeping suburbia, up to the Macedon Ranges in the distance. It’s walk-ins only, so snag a table in the late arvo and settle in to watch the sunset with a grapefruit-y house spritz, then move to the Pina Colada Punch or the Italo Disco. Snacks are simple but satisfying: ricotta-filled zucchini flowers, marinated sardine skewers, ’nduja soldiers and more (or head downstairs for a more substantial feed).
Golden Fleece Hotel
This South Melbourne venue has had a few reincarnations over the last 140 years, but this latest one might be its most dramatic – it’s been turned into a Greek Islands-inspired paradise, channeling Santorini’s signature white stone buildings. Head up the colourful, mosaic-tiled stairway to the rooftop for a fun pét-nat or a spritz made with Four Pillars Olive Leaf gin. The menu is similarly Mediterranean, with ooey-gooey saganaki, fluffy fish-roe dip, pasta and pizza alongside classic pub grub.
The Stolen Gem
Once a private events space, CBD rooftop bar The Stolen Gem is opening to the public on February 17, with 360-degree city views and a sushi collab with chirashi bar Uminono. The cocktails are made with Australian spirits and foraged botanicals, like the blackberry-laced Bourke Blaze or the sweet S’more Fashioned. Plus, a mix of Australian and international wines, canape-style snacks, and a fit-out with bronze, stone and marble lit up by neon signage.
Honourable mention: Madame Brussels
While not new by any stretch – it’s one of the city’s first hidden rooftop bars – the iconic Madame Brussels has reopened after being saved from permanent closure last year. The new owners, who are also behind Double Happiness and New Gold Mountain, have said they want to “keep the spirit alive”, retaining the whimsical fit-out and still pouring its popular sangria.
Additional reporting by Quincy Malesovas, Tomas Telegramma and Evan Jones.