Photography by Earl Carter
The tiny new after-dark cocktail venue shaking up Flinders Lane’s dining precinct
Melbourne chef and restaurateur Andrew McConnell recently opened his anticipated standalone CBD cocktail bar, Apollo Inn—an atmospheric new venue fast establishing itself as a must-visit in the city’s bustling Flinders Lane dining precinct.
Housed in a neo-Renaissance former pub building steps away from its sibling venue, Gimlet at Cavendish House, the characterful bijou space delivers servicedriven sophistication and old-world charm in equal measure. McConnell says that while opening a dedicated drinks venue wasn’t always a conscious plan, his own penchant for proper cocktail bars, together with the popularity of Gimlet’s bar seating, helped move the concept along. “Bookending a night out with a visit to a great bar is an excellent way to get a read on a city,” he explains, adding, “In hindsight, I guess it has always been burbling away as an idea.”
Playing to its air of club-like seclusion, the 30-seat bar is found behind an unassuming entrance and entered through a distinctive pair of whisky-coloured leather-clad doors. Intimate and moody, the interiors by Sydney design studio ACME (the same team behind Gimlet’s midcentury style), highlight the “good bones” of the 1924-built McDonald House and pay homage to the elegance of 1950s-era cocktail bars. Developed by bar manager Cameron Parish over 18 months, the bar’s cocktail list contains meticulously made classics and thoughtful signature drinks.
Martini lovers can take their pick from four styles, while the rose-hued Lucian Gaudin (a favourite winter aperitif of McConnell’s that he describes as “sitting somewhere between a martini and a negroni”), and French-inspired Picon Biere (a Gallic take on the Aussie ‘shandy’), bring fresh thinking to the table. Wine drinkers, meanwhile, can take advantage of reciprocal rights to Gimlet’s 300-plus bottle cellar, with drops available by the glass or bottle. And, of course, no Andrew McConnell outing would be complete without food; here, you’ll find a brief menu offering fare such as raw tuna with sobrasada, wagyu beef on toast with winter truffle, creme caramel, and other share-friendly snacks.