Vue de Monde to D.O.C., Cavallero to Saint Crispin, St ALi North to Green Park – they’re all cases that have proven that the ghosts of venues past need not necessarily spell inferiority for a business’s successor. And in good news for lovers of low-lit drinking, handsome new CBD cocktail bar Romeo Lane now joins these ranks.

Romeo Lane inhabits the snug space that was until recently occupied by city gem Von Haus (its owners, a couple, sold up after starting a family). Fans of Von Haus’s living room intimacy shouldn’t despair though: this neighbourhood Romeo has more than enough style and purpose to stand on his own two feet. And while you’ll no longer find coffee or breakfast here, what you will get is classic cocktails from midday along with inventive, seasonal small plates and more old-world charm than you can poke a stick at.

First-time business owners Joe Jones and Rita Ambroz both come from a healthy stint at nearby Lily Blacks and as a consequence certainly know their way around a Boston shaker. While they admit to enjoying the current resurgence of Prohibition era-style alcoholic concoctions, Ambroz and Jones are both big fans of traditional European-style cocktails, which means you’ll see plenty of sherry, gin and top-shelf cognac on the drinks list.

“We really like to take old-style drinks and update them for the modern drinker,” says Jones, a former chef–turned barman whose experience also includes consulting to the likes of North Melbourne’s Joe Taylor.

The drinks list here covers a range of excellent cocktails alongside a handful of local and European wines (including Bollinger by the half-bottle, which we love) and a selection of fortifieds too.

And the name? It’s a nod to Crossley Street’s colourful past. Back in the mid-1800s, the narrow thoroughfare was at the epicentre of the CBD’s red light district. While today it’s better known for its fashion, food and coffee offerings, the laneway was originally called Romeo Lane (pairing with nearby Juliet Terrace, now Liverpool Street) before a name change in 1876.

Upon learning of the street’s somewhat disreputable past in the project’s early days, the pair thought it fitting to embrace Crossley Street’s seedy history. “We thought that a dim little cocktail bar would really fit the bill,” says Jones. And we’d wholeheartedly agree.

Romeo Lane
1A Crossley Street, Melbourne
(03) 9639 8095

Mon - Thurs 3pm - 1am
Fri - Sat 12pm - 1am
Sunday by appointment only