From the ashes of a famously sticky boozer rises an elegant mid-century cocktail bar
The Old Clare Hotel is full of ghosts – not the Stephen King kind, but the ghosts of parties past. If you listen closely you can probably hear echoes of Brit pop reverb and dropped bass lines ricocheting off the mottled yellow tiles that still line the room. Thank God for heritage listings. We’re betting there are also trace elements of Jager bombs in the grout. But a whole new era has begun at the old Carlton Brewery site: where once was a temple to sticky carpeted uni shenanigans, now stands a vintage-styled cocktail bar beneath a slick boutique hotel, complete with rooftop pool.
About time too. A thirsty person was in danger of expiring before they found a decent spot for a stiff drink around Central – but our oasis has finally arrived and it’s pouring $11 pints of Reschs, or whatever is on the two craft taps.
Already the Old Clare is feeling the love from UTS and ABC crowds, and that’s before you count the people actually staying in the hotel. Plus, with buzzy new restaurants Automata and Silvereye upstairs there’s a fair whack of people enjoying a pre-dinner Martini.
The cocktail list changes weekly (on a Tuesday) but you can order favourites that have come and gone, which means a Clare Kahuna Colada is always on the cards. It’s not a big, icy, tiki drink, but rather a short, amber reviver that balances the caramel sweetness of pineapple rum with the malty freshness of Batch Brewing’s coconut brown ale. Maybe it’s in reference to the history of the building, or maybe the bar team, headed by Simon Audus (ex-Sokyo and Stitch) just really like beer. What matters is, it works. Oh yeah, and that rooftop pool also has a bar that will change menus monthly. Summer sessions sorted.
Back down on street level, the huge oval bar in the centre of the room is clad in glowing Mondrian-esque panels in a citrus palette, there are ceramic liquor jugs lining the walls and the staff are a friendly, vintage-attired team who know how to do table service with proper care and attention. The tunes aren’t playing to theme though. What starts in the ’60s with Cream, slowly marches to the present day, ticking off the Buzzcocks and Donavon Frankenreiter before arriving at new indie soul darling Meg Mac.
Think about it this way – it’s now fine if your flat is a cupboard-sized hovel decorated by Ikea; here you can kick back in a mid-century wingback chair with a glass of Le Blanc Plonk riesling beneath a vintage spotlight and let Instagram tell beautiful lies. Let’s all go live the sweet life at the Old Clare Hotel.