Glamp Bar fills an Africa-sized hole in the Melbourne CBD dining scene. This colourful, safari-themed cocktail bar combines fun drinks with fusion food from PolePole Kitchen. Here you can imagine you’re glamping on savanna whilst sipping a Windhoek Lager from Nambia and nibbling Jollof Rice Croquettes.
Location: 238 Little Collins St, Melbourne, VIC 3000 Ph: (03) 9650 2811
First up, let’s tackle the elephant in the room (Sorry! I just couldn’t resist).
Do a quick online search and you’ll find the Glamp Bar come up in a number of guises. Glamp Bar, Glamp Cocktail Bar and PolePole Kitchen – but at the end of the day, all roads lead to the same deluxe African camping-themed venue on Little Collins.
Another thing to know is that Glamp Bar is definitely kitsch. Which is one of the reasons why we love it. With its screens streaming Big 5 wildlife clips, tribal pots and swathes of material draped from the ceilings, every effort has been made to take you out of Melbourne and into Africa.
Lastly, in a town where you can stumble across great Mexican, Indian, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Asian Fusion and more in suburb after suburb, it’s a surprise that the diverse culinary landscape of Africa barely gets a look in. Apart from a smattering of noteworthy Ethiopian restaurants – such as African Taste Cafe in Seddon and MESOB in Northcote – there are few places to sample the foodie delights of this dynamic continent.
You may have seen the red rhino sign jutting out over the pavement on Little Collins Street. Or perhaps you’ve spied the chunky psychedelic rhino guarding the side entrance.
If you have, chances are you’ve peered in through the tasseled window of the Glamp Cocktail Bar and marvelled at the decor inside.
Because make no doubt, the interior of this establishment is pretty eye-catching.
Woven pots hang from the ceiling, along with metres of billowing material which gives a tent-like feel. Add to this dangling plants and the odd resin animal head and you get an idea of the eclectic nature of the interior.
Seating is a mix of regular tables and chairs, stubby wooden stools and spaceous corner banquettes. Bright, geometrically patterned rugs break-up what would be an uninspiring floor.
The bar itself is a solid wood rectangle, backlit in red.
One Glamp Bar specific point of interest is the odd screen on the wall running snippets of African-focused wildlife documentaries.
Whether you want a bowl of Fries ($9) with Smoked Paprika Salt & Zulu Fire Aioli or something more substantial, it comes from PolePole Kitchen.
Currently, the food divides into Vegetarian, Meat & Dessert. That said, the team offer a couple of set meals, both of which are a bargain in terms of what you get. Tasting Menu 1 ($36pp) is a Chefs Selection of 5 items, whilst Tasting Menu 2 ($49pp) is 7 dishes.
We decide to go with the smaller one and our helpful waiter assures us we’ll get a mix of veggie and meat-based plates.
The opener is a snappy little surprise.
Burnt Carrot and Almond Dip, Honey, Roasted Chickpeas, Injera Crisps ($12) is so much better than we expect it to be. The sweetness of the Carrot and Honey work brilliantly against the super crunchy Injera Crisps.
Next up is the Fried Haloumi, Apple Jam & Voatsiperifery Pepper Praline ($14), which ends up being one of our favourite dishes. The cubes of Haloumi have a wonderfully airy texture – almost like deep-fried sponges of bubbly tofu. They are coated with a mildly piquant crust – the Voatsiperifery Pepper Praline, we assume. And the Apple Jam lifts all those flavours without being coyingly sweet. It’s simple, but really very good.
Following on from the stellar Haloumi, we have the Kenyan Fried Chicken Ribs ($17). These are pleasingly gnarly and pack a decent amount of heat. They sit on a bed of Turmeric Sour Cream which cools the Ginger and the Chilli Dressing which add to the pleasant burn.
The last of our vegetarian bites are Black Bean & Kale Sakuma Wiki Sausage Rolls with Pebre Sauce ($15). These come at the bottom of our ratings, but are good, nonetheless. The Kale Sakuma Wiki (an African leafy green) isn’t as vegetal as regular Kale and the Black Beans give body to the filling. As I say, they aren’t our top choice, but that says more about how good other dishes are as opposed to being a criticism of these Sausage Rolls themselves.
Our final morsel from PolePole Kitchen is the Beef Mishkaki Skewers, Mother Africa Peanut Sauce & Tankora ($16). Fragrant and succulent, these are another highlight.
Tankora is a spice rub from Ghana that is used widely on beef and chicken kebabs. The result is a beautifully marinated skewer, smokey from the grill, which goes brilliantly with the satay-reminiscent Mother Africa Peanut Sauce.
Although we’ve only had the smaller Tasting Menu, we are all sufficiently full to pass on Dessert. BUT. Had I had the room, the Ugandan Chocolate Ganache Tartlets, Amarula Creme & Barberries ($12) wouldn’t have stood a chance.
If you have an interest in Australia’s indigenous food, see our review of Big Esso by Mabu Mabu
The Wine List hops from South Africa to Victoria and back again. Meanwhile the Beer & Cider selection draws from the same places, plus Namibia and Mauritius.
As you may be aware, Eatability has a soft spot for a Cocktail. And we are at Glamp Cocktail Bar, after all.
Following much deliberation, I plump for the Congo Bong ($24). A tall glass of Four Pillar Dry Gin, Aubrey Lychee, Cucumber and Pineapple. It’s heavy on the Lychee and it’s floral notes compliment the spicing in a number of the dishes.
Special mention must also go to the dainty little liberation that arrived in a nana teacup. Too cute.
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The Glamp Bar is a great spot for drinks and food with friends.
The food is interesting and different, but not too challenging. The cocktails are constantly evolving and infuse familiar spirits with unusual herbs and spices which really work.
The staff are lovely and it is never a problem for them to explain the origins of dishes and ingredients.
And the ambience is ace. Glamp Cocktail Bar is chill and fun.
If this is what glamping in Africa looks like, sign me up.