Art deco fixtures and 1930s vibes – along with a stellar cocktail list and stylish champagne bar – makes Nick & Nora’s Melbourne a classy choice for a special night out.
Location: 80 Collins, 80 Collins Street via, 11 Benson walk, Melbourne, VIC 3000 Ph: (03) 8393 9367
It’s weird, but there is no surer sign that you are about to enter a fashionable bar in Melbourne than to not be able to find it. And Nick & Nora’s Melbourne follows this rule.
You’d think that locating this particular cocktail bar would be so easy. After all, 80 Collins is a vibrant pocket of restaurants, coffee shops and bars – including Farmer’s Daughters, Society, People’s Coffee and Yakimono – and they are all clearly signed and visible right in front of you.
Not so the Melbourne outpost of Nick & Nora’s, probably the hippest cocktail bar in Parramatta, Sydney.
Melburnians can try food and drinks from an interesting Afro-centric menu at The Glamp Bar
You may be aware that our elusive destination is part of the Speakeasy Group’s growing hospitality empire. The fabulously atmospheric – and arguably even more secretly hidden – Eau de Vie Melbourne is a sister establishment. (And for Sydneysiders – you too can also enjoy an Eau De Vie and a Nick & Nora’s in the NSW capital).
But it’s the Melbourne incarnation that we’re struggling to find.
Finally, we notice a discreet sign mentioning Champagne and Cocktails and Bingo! There’s the bar’s elegant logo on a door and we’ve made it.
Incidentally, who are Nick & Nora?
Created by the crime writer Dashiel Hammett, they were a crime fighting couple who featured in a series of books and films. Played by William Powell and Myrna Loy on the screen they were witty, glamorous and epitomised 1930s cocktail culture.
So much so, in fact, that a style of cocktail glass was named after them – the Nick and Nora Glass.
If you’re interested in the Nick and Nora Glasses, you can find out more here.
Given this, what better name could you possibly give to an Art Deco-themed cocktail bar than Nick and Nora’s?
Opulent. But first you have to get in there.
Once through the street-level door, you climb a flight of stairs up to the bar and, as you do so, you feel like you’re heading back in time.
With a striking stained glass skylight and 1930s period touches such as the signature portrait of Nick and Nora themselves in profile, you could be entering a party hosted by the Great Gatsby himself.
The Entrance to the bar proper takes you down a moodily lit corridor flanked by a thick velvet curtains in a dark malachite on one side and illuminated cabinets of bottles on the other. At the end of this walkway, a warm, golden light beckons.
Move towards the light – go on, we dare you! – and you find yourself in a stunning Art Deco-inspired bar.
Everything about this room is luxurious and speaks of a bygone era when sophistication and stunning interior design were everything.
The floors are an intricate mosaic of Art Deco tiling, the soft furnishings pick up that deep, dark green found on the stairs. The ceiling is a thing of genuine beauty. At first glance it looks gilt. However, it’s actually artfully crafted pale wood, very cleverly lit.
This lighting brilliance continues throughout Nick and Nora’s Melbourne. From the jewel-like back-lit bar to the Tiffany wall scones and inverted pyramid light shades adorning that amazing ceiling.
Nick and Nora’s is also a space of many parts. The bar area has high stools and long communal tables, whilst to the back there are low tables and chairs. Walk around the dividing wall and you’ll discover plush booths.
Take a seat there and you’ll feel like you’re enjoying a pre-dinner aperitif on an ocean-going cruise liner from the Titanic’s shipyard.
Pop round the corner and try our the Gippsland-focused food of Farmer’s Daughters – read our review, here
Whilst the drinks are undeniably a huge drawcard at Nick and Nora’s Melbourne, don’t make the mistake of ignoring the food. The fare here is definitely a step up from the snacks and nibbles of many bars.
I love a canape and the Charred Pineapple Prawn with Tamarind Sauce ($15 for 2) is a very good one. The smoky sweetness of the fruit and the sour tamarind are a great combination.
And few words make me more excited than ‘Lobster Roll’ ($20). At Nick and Nora’s this most decadent of sangas has firm chunks of lobster flesh, cloaked in a tangy mayo and bedded in a fragrant brioche bun. Heaven.
We toy with the idea of ordering the brilliantly named Baller Board ($120). This promises us a Chef’s Selection of Gourmet Meats & Cheeses with Accoutrement. However, we have dinner booked elsewhere and decide to save that treat for another visit.
Instead, we take the edge off our hunger with the Pork Shoulder Bao Bun with Pickle Cabbage & Soy Glaze ($22). It’s a great choice. The pork is meltingly soft and the bao toothsome.
And we adore the Nick & Nora image branded onto their doughy, pale tops.
Nick & Nora’s have recently added a number of new dishes to their Food Menu.
For seafood lovers, it’ll be hard to refuse the Charred Octopus Tostada with Black Bean Puree & Salsa Roja ($17 for 2). Similarly, as someone who adores the minerally pull of a good Beef Tartare, the one here with Basil Chimichurri & Dehydrated Egg Yolks ($29) will be one to try next time of pop in.
All you really need to know is that Nick & Nora’s is a Cocktail and Champagne Bar.
Honestly, I can imagine few more suitable places to cascade an expensive bottle (or 4) of French bubbles over a champagne fountain than this gorgeous drinking den. And as you might expect, they have an extensive – and impressive – selection of Champagnes and Sparkling Wines on offer.
That said, we are here for the cocktails. And we are not disappointed.
The Cocktail List at Nick and Nora’s Melbourne is vast and magical. Due to its size, the mixologists in charge have kindly divided it up into well-known crime movie figures. Thus, there is The Femme Fatale – where you’ll find an array of back-straightening Martinis.
I succumb for my second drink and try The Sicilian ($24). This citrus-forward belter consists of Beefeater 24 Gin, Amaro Nonino & Orange Citrate and hits right between the eyes.
Another winner is the sherbety Fugitive Fizz ($26) from The Snitch part of the menu. With Patron Silver Tequila, Amaro Montenegro, Mandarin Shrub, Orange Citrate, Sugar, Soda and Egg White, it proves all too easy to quaff.
Also from the same part of the Cocktail List, the Passion Project ($26) arrives with a little bit of theatre. An aromatic concoction of Beefeater Gin, Dry Sherry, Aperol, Passionfruit, Raspberry, Chamomile and Lemon, is topped with a bubble which pops to envelope us all in a cloud of passionfruit scent.
Lastly, I have to say that the service at Nick & Nora’s is superb. From the moment we walk in, all the staff are outstanding. We especially appreciate that the wait staff who deliver our cocktails take the trouble to explain exactly what is in our glass, and what flavour profiles we should taste.
Nick & Nora’s Melbourne is a definitely a cut above your average cocktail bar.
Nothing has been over-looked to make an hour or so here feel like an escape to a more glamorous world. The interior design is sublime, the staff are delightful, the food is lush and the cocktails are something else.
If Jay Gatsby’s parties at West Egg were half as boujee as this, it’s no wonder everyone wanted to be invited.