Last week I jumped a plane to Melbourne for a weekend of shopping, eating and drinking. You know, the things Sydney’s southern sister does so well. Top of my list was a trip to the charmingly disheveled suburb of Fitzroy and Australia’s award winningly best bar, The Black Pearl, to catch up with Australia’s award winningly best bartender, Chris Hysted and the other members of Australia’s award winningly best bar team.
Sometimes when a place wins a slew of awards, things start to fall apart. The foot comes of the accelerator and the drive that propelled them to such giddy heights falls away leaving a sad, lame duck. Painfully mixed metaphors aside, this is most certainly not the case with the Pearl. Perhaps because there has seemingly never been a foot on the accelerator, but more likely that the bar is stocked with fine spirits, both in the bottles on the back bar and inside all the staff, the Pearl delivers a level of comfort that’s hard to come by and pretty much impossible to fake.
This then, is place to feel at home.
The bar itself is a tardis of soft seats and couches, but if you’ve come as a one or a two, take a seat at the bar, hang your coat and bag on the hooks under the counter. The bar team are all tremendous fun, the patrons a close second and if there is a tiny moment you’re not fully engaged, the cycling CCTV screen can prove to be entertaining.
The list is expansive, a quick read confirmed a few that just had to be tried. I started with the Ipkiss Margarita†, a smoky mezcal and citrus number, rendered silky smooth and finished with a smoking branch of torched rosemary.
It was delicious, but my mind had already jumped ahead to the Whisk(e)y Zombie, it had jumped off the list at me and was far from a disappointment. Blending five types of Scottish and Americans in any scenario is a big ask, doing it in a Tiki drink that traditionally uses all the rums is just the type of madcap tomfoolery the Pearl gravitates towards. The rules go out the window, balance and flavour rule. The result are drinks that are truly wonderful. My Zombie arrived in a spectacular vessel, adorned with a Tiki god that could have easily filled in for an immunity idol on Survivor. Crowned with an lemon absinthe flame pit roasting PX soaked currants, nestled in a garden of fresh mint and swimming in a drink that had the peaty smoke of Islay and the meaty finish of Bourbon and everything in between. My new task in life is to get Chris Hysted drunk and have him spill the recipe.
The lead photo on this post does the drink the best in terms of justice, but I can’t leave out this, most perfect photo bomb, as well.
My memory finished with a beautifully mixed Manhattan, Rittenhouse 100, Carpano Antica and a hint of St Germain. The elderflower bought up the floral notes in the vermouth as well, making for a mighty tasty finish.
The team behind the bar also indulged my girlfriends current love affair with Chartreuse and produced a slew of tasty beverages for her. The hospitality of the team and the tasty drinks, the ultimate benchmark for a bar that truly deserves to be called Australia’s best.
The Black Pearl is grand, call a cab, book a flight, plan a Southern hemisphere holiday. This really is one you shouldn’t miss.
304 Brunswick St, Fitzroy,VIC 3065
(03) 9417 0455
On Google Maps, here.
† Named, presumably for Jim Carrey’s character in the 1994 movie, The Mask, because this drink is shmmmmooooking…