The Best Bars in Melbourne's Chinatown

Photo of Monique La Terra
26 December 2017

As one of Melbourne’s most popular ethnic enclaves, Chinatown boasts some impressive restaurants. But did you know that tucked in the laneways are some of Melbourne’s most unique bars? From the bizarre to oriental and secluded—these are the five best bars in Melbourne’s Chinatown.

The Croft Institute

Bar, Cocktail Bar, Contemporary, $$$
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The Croft Institute
The Croft Institute | © The Croft Institute

Inconspicuously located down a winding and narrow laneway, navigating your way to The Croft Institute is half the fun. The first of Melbourne’s laneways bars, The Croft Institute spans three floors. The ground floor is styled after an old-school science lab complete with beakers, test tubes, Bunsen burners and all manner of curiosities. Stumble up to the first floor to find yourself in the male and female hygiene departments, which resemble an eerie, abandoned asylum. One floor up you can sit on the bleachers in the gymnasium and dance your heart out to live DJs on Friday and Saturday nights. The Croft Institute also features a custom-designed cocktail list and a boutique wine list.

Union Electric

Cocktail Bar, Restaurant, Cocktails, Wine, Beer, Asian, Vegetarian, $$$
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Opened in 2015 by Huw Griffiths and his business partner, Shane Whiteley, Union Electric is a moody little bar in Heffernan Lane, watched over by a portrait of the bar’s patron saint, Bill Murray. A nod to Union Electric Lighting Company, which once occupied the lane, the bar prides itself on an evolving and memorable cocktail menu, with a focus on fresh juice, vegetables, and other botanicals. Union Electric also serves craft beer with a side of bartender banter, and encourages patrons to bring their own food.

Manchuria

Cocktail Bar, Cocktails, Wine, Beer, Asian, Vegetarian, $$$
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Named after a region in Northeast Asia, Manchuria Bar is a secluded venue located on the first floor of a nondescript building in Waratah Place. Oozing old-world charm, this opulent venue smoulders with background jazz, plush alcove seating, ambient lighting and a seductive cocktail list. Manchuria Bar’s signature cocktails include El Cigaro, Tiger Under the Bed, Freemason’s Daughters and Mary of Manchuria. The bar also offers a range of Asian tapas, including vegetarian spring rolls, salt and pepper quail, and seasoned calamari.

Double Happiness

Cocktail Bar, Bar, Contemporary, Cocktails, Wine, Beer, $$$
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Established in 2002, Double Happiness is an oriental hole-in-the-wall bar where everyone knows your name. The bar is decked out Chinese decor and communist propaganda. Drink as the regulars do and order the bar’s signature espresso martini or the Great Leap Forward—a mix of house-made lychee vodka, mint, lime and ginger. You can also keep it simple with bubble teas or imported beer.

Section 8

Nightclub, Bar, Pub, Cocktails, $$$
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A transformed shipping container in a vacant corner lot is all it takes to draw a crowd in Melbourne these days. All about atmosphere, Section 8 in Tattersalls Lane is an open-air bar created using recycled industrial materials, including wooden pallets, scaffolding and oil drums. The drinks menu includes top-shelf spirits, imported beers and house-made cocktails. The beer garden also hosts DJs and special events, and with free entry, it’s no wonder Section 8 has become the place to be seen.

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