From the funky light-box marking the entrance, to the effortless cool of its laidback, loft-like space, Young Hearts stands out as the coolest kid on a pretty trendy block.
Location: 216 High St, Windsor, VIC 3181 Ph: (03) 9510 4045
If you’re not already aware of it, the strip of High Street between Hornby and Chapel Streets is buzzing.
Within stumbling distance of one another there’s Harper Bar, The Smith Prahran, Hanoi Hannah Express, Bistro Morgan and Firebird. And just across the street from the enticing Vietnamese-infused aromas of Firebird sit sleek Neptune Food & Wine and her grungier little sister – Young Hearts bar.
Although they have DNA in common – namely Nic Coulter – these are 2 vastly different spaces.
But take it from us, both are worth a visit.
If you adore the heat, zing and life of Vietnamese cuisine, check out our piece on the Best Vietnamese Restaurants in Melbourne
Whilst both Neptune Wine Bar and Young Hearts are big on discreet lighting and have an industrial chic- converted warehouse aesthetic, their vibes are quite different.
Neptune has a sophisticated ambience and decor that hints at classy inner city dining. In contrast, Young Hearts is edgier. It’s the kind of bar where you meet a friend for a quiet drink, slip into one of the deep, brown leather couches and find yourself still there 3 hours later. 4 cocktails in. And really enjoying the tunes on the sound system.
But let’s go back a pace.
For a funky warehouse space of a different kind, see our review of Lilac Wine Bar in Cremorne
Firstly, to find the bar, you have to spy the groovy neon sign marking the street-level doorway.
Pass the threshold and you’re in an entrance hall with a colourful canvas on one wall, a very healthy pot plant in the corner and a staircase to the floor above. Ascend those stairs and you come into a vast, loft-style room.
A long, back-lit bar, bejewelled with alluring bottles, runs along the left side of the space. More stairs to one side lead up to what appears to be an intriguing mezzanine above it.
The ceiling is high and vaulted. The room below is dim and moody. A skinny table set with bar stools runs in front of the bar and the rest of the room has a mix of intimate tables and a couple of incredibly inviting low, slouchy sofas.
The other feature of note is a groovy DJ booth to the side as you first come in. On the evening we drop by – early on a rather drab Thursday – an eclectic mix of vinyl is spinning, giving just enough of an atmosphere to keep conversations low and discreet.
For sophisticated decor and divine cocktails, try Nick & Nora’s Melbourne
And that’s very much the ambience of Young Hearts at this time of night. It feels like the perfect spot for secret assignations or for a second date – when you liked someone quite a lot on the first meeting and know want to know a bit more about them.
Having said that, I reckon Young Hearts also really kicks off later in the night. Especially on a Friday or Saturday, when the perceived limitations of a ‘school night’ are less restrictive.
And this is clearly part of the plan in opening Young Hearts, for its not only a bar, but rather an inclusive arts space. It was conceived as a place where various arts-based performances could find a platform – from DJs on the decks, to the photographic works on the walls.
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Another point of interest at Young Hearts is that not only the food, but the chefs, change regularly.
The idea is that guest chefs take over the pots and pans for 6 months and bring their signature dishes with them.
At present, the crew from Freddy’s – the much-loved Pizza joint from a few blocks away – is manning the burners. The result is a menu of pleasing nibbles and more.
There’s Cured Meats ($32) – comprising of Bresaola, Capocollo & Pickles, or Salt & Pepper Croquettes ($15 for 3). Alternatively, you can tuck into a vibrant Eggplant Sando ($9), bright with Sundried Tomato & Basil. Or perhaps the Arrostocinni ($19 for 5) – Lamb Skewers, sound more appealing?
Looking for recommendation for the Best Pizza Places in Melbourne? Well, look no further.
The Wine List is overseen by Fin Wines and the website states it aims to provide ‘easy drinking’ options. In contrast, the Cocktails are said to be mixed with the intention of getting people up and dancing.
Now, Eatability is partial to a bop, but as it is early and pre-dinner when we nip in. With this in mind, we tumble into a cocooning couch and order our libations from the extremely friendly waiter.
Whilst the Matryoshka ($22) isn’t the flashiest glassful I’ve ever held, it tastes fabulously refreshing. Fragrant with Smoked Thyme, Grapefruit, Lemon and Celery Bitters with Elderflower Liqueur and Vodka, it’s a great start to a night out.
However, the star of the show is definitely the arrestingly named Fat Bottomed Girls ($23).
If you like nutty, roasted sesame notes, then this is the tipple for you. Whilst it looks fairly unassuming, the aroma of the Tahini Vodka that provides the cocktail’s backbone wafts over long before the actual drink arrives. This unusual spirit is combined with Vanilla Peppercorn, Honey and Lemon. Finally, a delicate dusting of Grated Cinnamon finishes the whole thing off.
It’s a triumph and a drink that we’ve talked about on a number of occasions since.
Seeking exciting drinks with killer views? See our guide to the Best Rooftop Bars in Melbourne
Interestingly, our main feeling on leaving Young Hearts was one of regret.
Admittedly, we’d only popped in for a quick drink. Moreover, the dinner we then enjoyed across the road at Firebird was excellent. But we really loved the vibe at Young Hearts and felt a tad cheated that we only spent a brief hour absorbing its unique charms.
That said, with a constantly changing events calendar and a kitchen on a 6 month rotation, there’s plenty of reasons to return. Soon.
Plus, I can’t get that amazing Fat Bottomed Girls Cocktail out of my head.
I’ll have to go back and make sure it really is as delicious as I recall!