Interior designer Lucienne Hemingway makes a good point.
“It's a very strong stigma in Melbourne that at all costs you don't end up in the Yarra,” she says. Floating above it on a pop-up designer pontoon and bar, however, is welcome.
The Arbory Bar & Eatery launched Arbory Afloat in 2015 as a temporary waterside oasis just steps from the busy CBD. The latest instalment, designed by Hemingway, opened for summer last week.
“Melburnians are drawn to unique experiences,” says Arbory owner Tim Botterill. “People celebrate the adaptive re-use of forgotten spaces and chase unforgettable experiences.”
Arbory proper, for example, is a massive outdoor drinking spot located on the site of a now-demolished train platform on the Yarra’s northern bank. Botterill and his team see the pop-up as another way to showcase the beauty of the river, and boost people’s interest in caring for it.
“Arbory Afloat evokes a rather romantic water view,” Hemingway adds. “There is a natural pull for Melburnians toward the water and is an integral part of one's summer.”
She’s created a space that’s more reminiscent of a yacht deck in the Mediterranean than a barge floating on the Yarra. The bar is all Yves Klein-blue accents, banquette seating, French bistro-style chairs and luxe day beds shaded by a canopy of plane trees.
It’s designed for romantic dates or drinks with friends on “lazy summer days and warm, breezy nights,” Hemingway says.
She’s used more than 130 metres of custom-printed fabric throughout the space, cladding entire walls, seat pads, day beds, lounges and cushions in blue and white.
“The crisp white and eye-catching blue are hard to miss from the Princes Bridge and give a strong, fresh summer vibe that stands out quite strongly against the river, canopy and CBD skyline,” she explains.
The fit-out also features more than 500 meters of golden blackbutt timber, used in balustrades and custom-designed ledges, bars and dining tables.
The menu also channels a holiday in some European riviera. It includes oysters; antipasto and seafood platters; San Daniele prosciutto-wrapped melon; lobster spaghetti; and pizza. Pidapipo is slinging gelato in cups or brioche bun sandwiches.
Sommelier Raúl Moreno Yagüe’s wine list leans European, with drops from Italy, Spain and France.
A dedicated gin and tonic menu showcases eight different local and international gin labels. The cocktail list is summer-ready with Pimm’s Cups, watermelon Margaritas, Aperol Spritzes, nitro Espresso Martinis, frozen Pina Coladas, white Negronis and pomegranate Mojitos.
1 Flinders Walk, Melbourne
03 8648 7644
Daily 11am–1am, including Christmas Day and New Year’s Day until February 2018