Behind the bar at Lily Blacks sits an impressive pyramid of fine liquor, a framed picture of Iron Chef chairman Takeshi Kaga, and what one patron tells us is a sex swing. It isn’t. It’s a pulley system to hoist their 200-kilo slab of ice onto the bench each week, but either way, we’re intrigued by what’s going on behind that bar.
And the answer is a lot – it’s just as pumping as outside in Meyers Place where eateries du jour San Telmo, Bar Lourinha and new Italian joint Lupino keep the mixed crowd of traffic coming. Duck in for a pre-dinner warm up at the three sided bar, or settle into a dark leather booth amongst the art deco lamps and potted palms to give their list a workout. It's all twisted pre-30s classics and custom cocktails here, and you’ll be served by a wisecracking crew who rock slicked back quiffs and waistcoats, make their own bitters and hand cut ice to order.
Give their Sole Manhattan a nudge. In place of rye, vermouth and bitters, you’ll get a well turned out glass of single barrel bourbon, a Danish cherry liqueur and house made cardamom bitters. It’s like a Manhattan that’s been dipped in Christmas. Or how about a house special like the Bourbon Peach Flip? It treads the line between light and dark, as bitters and bourbon go head to head with syrups of peach and white chocolate. The lot is pulled together and given creamy texture through the addition of a whole egg and a rambunctious shaking. It’s a good drink, but keep it away from a stomach that’s been pre-loved by a night of boozing.
As for the picture of chairman Kaga, we need no explanation as to why they’re worshipping that back-flipping master of cool, but if you must know it represents the Iron Bartender competition held here. Yep, every couple of months, the bar becomes a battle stadium for Melbourne’s best bartenders to none-too-seriously battle it out for the glory of a mugshot on the wall of fame, and the all-important right to brag.
Fun and good drinks are of equal priority here. Make attendance one of yours.