Not much of a club rat, I am constantly on the prowl for Melbourne bars I can lose a lot of time in. Wander into Black Pearl on Fitzroy’s Brunswick Street and then let your eyes do the same, taking in the rainbow of spirits, liqueurs and little Tiki statues lining the shelves behind the bar.
You’ll see, in their midst, three martini glass-shaped bar awards on the shelf, prized possessions of Black Pearl’s renowned mixologists. The range of signature cocktails are wholly invented and named by the small and dedicated bar staff. At the bar tonight are Evan, Chris and Angus – three supremely talented drinks-men who know what I want before I do.
My eyes scan the list: it’s like Sophie’s Choice. The ‘Blueberry Hills’ cocktail intrigues me: Havana Club Bianco rum, Limoncello, blueberry syrup, lime, balsamic. Drool. Or the ‘Third Strike’: Campari, Grand Marnier, lemon and orange juice, orange blossom. The food, too, impressed a great deal: cheap and diverse, including home-made ‘secret recipe’ sausage roll.
After a long and difficult decision-making process (“Four of everything, please”), I go for the ‘Grand Day Out’, for its inclusion of bar-made Earl Grey-infused Vermouth, plus orange Curacao and lemon charged with sparkling wine. It’s pink and sweet – a little foamy but plain delicious.
The lush, sheer black curtains falling beautifully in the windows, I watch the barmen serve much-loved regulars and intrigued newcomers. They are the genuine article – attentive, whether you’re undecided, confused or curious. There’s no pour-the-beer-and-eff-off, as with many lesser establishments.
Venture past the bar and discover a small balcony with patio furniture upstairs. The flowers and palm tree motif, coupled with the soft, old-fashioned couches brings something decidedly exotic to this little bar; not in a tacky, rubber plants and crazy straws way, more like a rich woman’s Hawaiian hut after 10pm.
Though I am still in search of my cabana boys, I highly recommend Black Pearl as a place to revel, gorge and laugh any night of the week.