The Best Bars in Carlton

Updated 2 months ago

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Carlton has changed a fair bit since Jimmy Watson’s first opened in 1935. Stalwart pubs like The John Curtin Hotel and The Lincoln still stand, nodding to the area’s working-class history. The 150-year-old King & Godfree has made the most of its stellar rooftop with the open-air Johnny’s Green Room. And plenty of wine bars have moved in, from the classy establishment Carlton Wine Room to morning-to-night newcomer Sunhands. Today, there’s a drink for just about every punter here, from gin-spiked cocktails by a beloved local distillery to Victorian beers poured at a plant-based pub. These are the best places for a knock-off or nightcap in the area, curated by Broadsheet’s expert food and drink editors.

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  • A cosy wine bar with quality pasta, hard-to-find wines and waiters clad head-to-toe in white Japanese denim. Set within an iconic heritage building, this place is a Melbourne interpretation of a classic Italian enoteca.

  • Is it a cocktail bar? A wine bar? A bistro? It’s all of that, depending on your mood and the occasion. Visit for standout Martinis with creative house twists, plus devilled eggs, veal schnitties and the possibility of making good friends.

  • This fun Italian joint, from Bar Liberty’s crew, takes plenty of cues from North America – with deep-dish pizza “squares” and rich, fermented base “rounds”. While the US gets a big look-in, the wine list is almost entirely Italian.

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  • The pretty Victorian building in the heart of Carlton is a modern eatery with a European-influenced menu and wine list.

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  • Find high-quality gin, whisky, vodka and rum at the cityside sibling to Fossey’s Mildura. Go for cocktails mixed with house-made Christmas pudding gin, blood-orange vodka or butterscotch whisky. The food menu also makes use of the house spirits: expect fries with rum-infused sauce; or cider-marinated pork belly with gin-pickled vegetables.

  • The green heritage-style facade and mid-century decor give all the impressions of another classic pub. Yet the plant-based menu says otherwise. The eggplant “schnitzel” and fried cauliflower stand out; the diverse beers are a bonus.

  • A Lygon Street espresso and cicchetti bar.

  • One of the oldest wine bars in Melbourne.

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  • The crown jewel of the King and Godfree complex. A visit here comes with Italian-beach-club energy, amazing city views, Italian fare and summer-ready drinks. It’s all tied together by a soundtrack of Italo disco tunes.

  • It was once Bob Hawke’s favourite watering hole; these days it’s a rock’n’roll icon. Bands often pack out the upper level, while DJs spin vinyl downstairs. Sonny’s, the in-house diner, has Southern-style fried chicken and banging burgers.

  • Leonardo’s is the kind of place you can accidentally spend hours at, and wake up far dustier than planned. The pepperoni is a classic, and the jalapeno number with fermented pepper and bechamel is a spicy wake-up call in the low-lit diner.

  • This 19th-century gastropub, with a vintage front bar and bistro, is among Melbourne’s best. It’s serving modern classics (including schnitzel with chicken butter) and a set menu that wouldn’t look out of place in a classy restaurant.

  • Hit up this community-focused watering hole for Aussie wines, Melbourne beers, and produce sourced from Victorian farms and businesses within the bar’s five-kilometre radius.

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  • Right opposite a university, this is a fine spot for students to miss lectures in. But it also welcomes everyone with its pub classics (from parmas to porterhouse steaks) and lush rooftop bar.

  • A vibrant corner shop that combines a cafe, wine shop, deli and general store. Enjoy its dippy eggs and morning plates, or grab a bottle of wine and bouquet to-go.

  • The husband-wife duo behind one of Melbourne’s most-loved Italian restaurants run this walk-in bar. It nods to Piedmont with vitello tonnato, duck-and-porcini ragu and Italian wines.

  • It feels like a real holiday on warm afternoons, when locals spill onto the street outside. Inside, a long bar houses a vinyl collection and old-school decks, and offers wines and Italian-leaning plates.

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