St Kilda is blessed with a bar for everyone, from sticky-carpet pubs to striking cocktail bars with uninterrupted bay views. For Matt Dawson, group executive of chef at St Kilda Venues, checking out local bar competition is all in the name of research.
Matt is gearing up for a busy summer at his flagship venue Captain Baxter, where he serves a seafood-focused menu with an Asian twist, all perched above the St Kilda Sea Baths with one of the best views in Melbourne. Captain Baxter was closed over the winter months for a major renovation, including a flash new retractable roof. Of course, Matt reckons Captain Baxter is St Kilda’s best place to drop in for a drink and a bite to eat, but variety is the spice of life, right? So these are the places Matt seeks out on his days off.
(Editor’s note: St Kilda’s iconic Hotel Esplanade opened after Matt wrote this top five… sporting 12 bars, three live music stages and two restaurants, giving Melburnians another excellent reason to head to the beach.)
- 2/157 Fitzroy St, St Kilda, 03 9525 4488
- This place isn’t really a bar, but I love it for a casual bite to eat and drink when catching up with friends. Oysters and raw fish dishes are favourites of mine on the menu (they always have super quality seafood). Plus, the sharp and attentive service with a smile is just what you’d expect from the McConnell group.
- 71a Acland St, St Kilda, (03) 9534 1942
- Oh the vineyard. Is there anyone who hasn’t passed through its doors at some point? It’s right in the heart of St Kilda and it’s my first stop when heading down Acland Street. It’s dark and noisy and the bar staff generally look like they are straight out of a grunge rock band (or perhaps roadies from one). Grab a space outside to soak in the vibrant St Kilda scene.
- 9 Fitzroy St, St Kilda, (03) 9534 0002
- I like to pop in here for a drink on the way out for the evening and sometimes don’t make it any further. Cocktails here are great and the guys are fantastic for a wind-down chat about the working day. Sometimes they even let me suggest a few tunes to play if I bring a large group of mates; now that’s service.
- 130 Acland St, St Kilda, (03) 9525 3333
- Cicciolina has been doing her thing for many years and there’s no need to change: good drinks, good food. They offer dishes you could make at home like pasta bolognaise, but it always tastes better here.
- 31 Jacka Boulevard, St Kilda, (03) 9525 5555
- The upstairs bar at the new Stokehouse is fantastic. It’s only a short stroll from the Sea Baths down St Kilda Beach, so it’s easy for me to call in for a nice, crisp wine. Always served with great service and style.