Cremorne, the tiny suburb that is home to Melbourne’s best boutique hotel, 381 Cremorne, was once a river-front pleasure garden, with animals and dancers entertaining visitors who would arrive by train or boat.
Those gardens only lasted a decade, closing in 1863, when it gave way to houses (and an asylum) before then being swallowed up in the industrial growth of this near-city area.
You might like to recall these madly diverse origins of what it now such a sought-after locale, if you choose to hop on the tram going up Swan Street away from the city, alighting after a couple of stops at Church Street, where, from 6pm to midnight on weekdays (except Monday) and 6pm to 1am Friday to Sunday, you will find the tatty shopfront which marks the site of two audaciously imaginative bars.
You have to like rum, quite a lot, if you are going to Bar Economico and its eccentric backroom little brother Bar Exuberante.
Or, at least you have to like what founder Matthew Bax calls his “ignorance/arrogance” in starting up a place where the mix of fanaticism and humour is intoxicating.
Just around the corner from Swan Street, the two Bars, at 438 Church Street, are created on the premise that drinking a cocktail is to be done with playful reverence.
Economico specialises in Rum cocktails, six recipes on offer on any given evening, plus a couple of imported beers and ciders.
Exuberante… well, it’s the exuberant version of that. Here’s where you get a glass of rum plus exotic flavours, you know the kind of thing – chocolate, coconut, lime, effusions and allusions, syrups and infusions.
What you need to know about Exuberante is that it’s entered through a discreet door behind Economico, and that it seats not many more than a dozen. Décor is shabby chic: drinks are just chic.