Amongst my favorite Melbourne hangouts are these two Melbourne laneway bars. Ostensibly separate establishments, they share owners, a kitchen, and by extension, a menu. I discovered this(ese) place(s) a few months ago, during Melbourne’s summer. They’re even better in winter.
The indoor venue, Ferdydurke, evokes a run-down, maybe postwar or even mid-war Eastern European watering hole with its minimalist furnishings in bare wood, brick & metal, the working brick fireplace, and the communist propaganda decor. The bar has everything needed to prepare classic cocktails as well as their own classically grounded twists – I recommend the Ferdydurke if you’re looking for something light and refreshing. Polish vodkas and beers are well represented and if you go in on a cold winter’s day you may get to have a cup of piwo grzane – “mulled beer” fortified with brandy, liqueur, spices and raspberries.
Out back, Section 8 is the container bar/beer garden. The outdoor venue continues the run-down/postwar/postindustrial/postapocalyptic theme with the bar and toilets made from (separate) shipping containers, tables/seating made from shipping palettes & steel drums and a not-quite-complete corrugated plastic roof. Decorations include mismatched bits of statuary, paper lanterns, industrial detritus and the odd shopping trolley (cart, to my fellow Americans). For those who feel the chill in winter, gas heaters are placed liberally around the place. The bar is well stocked, offers a bit more casual menu of tropical themed cocktails, and just as good a selection of single malt scotch as you’ll find inside.
The shared menu is a selection of quality hotdogs offered with interesting toppings. The presentations are attractive, considering you’re dealing with a hot dog, and they use quality products. The buns are tasty, but soft, light and not big on structure. Make sure you tuck and hold the bun tightly around the dog and toppings to avoid making a mess. You can choose one of their creations or mix & match toppings to create your own. During Pierogi Pierogi, originally a one time promotion but now a semi-regular event, Polish soups and pierogi replace the hot dog menu. The next Pierogi Pierogi event will be on the 21st of July.
The prices are comparable to what you might pay in a New York or London venue. Aside from the $5 Coopers Lights, beer will set you back $9-15. Specialty cocktails range from $12-20 inside Ferdydurke and $17-20 outside at Section 8. Hot dogs are $3 plain or $5 for the menu creations, though Ferdydurke offers a $3 happy hour special on all hot dogs. Wifi is free inside Ferdydurke; see the menu board for the password. The signal doesn’t extend to Section 8.
Ferdydurke hosts live bands and/or DJs most nights and Section 8 usually has a DJ.
You’ll find these spots in Tattersalls Lane between Lonsdale and Little Bourke Streets, convenient to QV, Melbourne Central, next to Chinatown and a short walk from several hotels.