Still ahead of the game after more than a decade of play
An elder statesman of the Melbourne bar scene, Black Pearl approaches its teens with all guns blazing. Now in its 13th year, the Pearl is as respected as ever, both here and abroad. But, despite the global accolades and enduring popularity, Tash Conte and her team haven’t rested on their laurels. Instead, 2015 was about re-energising this most faithful of late-night bars.
The paint has dried on the downstairs renovations now, revealing a clubby, welcoming space of whisky-toned leather banquettes (we love the cinema-style drinks tables jutting out from the walls), amber candles and warm timbers. It was all finished just in time for the arrival of Jim Meehan and Jeff Bell of famed New York speakeasy Please Don’t Tell, who popped up in the Attic for four nights in August 2015. The guys collaborated with Black Pearl bartenders Nathan Beasley and Matthew Stirling to create an exclusive line in cocktails, which have been available in the intimate top-floor lounge ever since. Standouts included the all-too smashable Sweet Tea Smash of Bulleit Bourbon, Strega, iced tea and lemon, and the smoky, spicy Little Squirt of tequila, Chartreuse, mezcal, capsicum and grapefruit.
Downstairs, the cocktails are now listed in an album of primary-bright, cartooned cards. If you can’t be bothered flipping and reading all the descriptions, just hit up the switched-on crew behind the bar. Staff may have shuffled slightly in recent years, but the consistency and calm leadership of Nathan Beasley, and the genuine passion and nous of those working with him, have ensured that the good ship Black Pearl sailed through the transition with ease. And while some details have changed, there are others that have remained the same, such as Tash’s mum’s dinky homemade sausage rolls, which have been on the menu since day dot. While other venues jump on the American food bandwagon, these flaky little nuggets remain not only the ideal booze sponge, they’re also as comforting, unpretentious and robust as the bar itself. Here’s to many more years ahead.