An inconspicuous C on the door and some haphazard paint tins are the only clues that give away Caretaker’s whereabouts. You might assume it’s a typical dive bar (albeit in an upmarket, central city location), but once you descend the stairs you’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover a low-lit world of bespoke cocktails and ‘70s rock tunes.
Husband-and-wife owners Alastair Walker and Heather Garland opened Caretaker in 2016, followed by their Ponsonby cocktail bar Deadshot in 2018. The former is their ode to a New York-style cocktail lounge, with decor inspired by a caretaker’s unobtrusive yet necessary cupboard.
The ceiling is lined with broomstick handles and the glass liquor bottles that would usually line a back bar are all partly hidden in safes. Rather than be too attached to certain labels, Walker and Garland want you to trust their team to tailor the perfect drink to you. And, as with Deadshot, you won’t find a drinks menu. Once they learn your precise inclinations for flavour and booze they’ll whip up something you may not have heard of but are almost guaranteed to enjoy.
With the duo’s combined years of experience (including as co-managers of Melbourne bar The Everleigh), they’ve made sure the bar team is impeccably trained, and the focus is on high quality ingredients including fresh-pressed juice and hand cut ice.
Tables are capped at six so you’ll never be yelling over a huge, disorderly group. On Tuesday and Sunday evenings, there’s a resident live band from 9pm.
If you think the words “fancy” and “cocktails” are synonymous, Caretaker aims to unstitch that belief. With its considered but no fuss decor, grungy soundtrack and smooth service, this tucked-away destination encourages you to linger longer, bespoke beverage in hand.
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