Melbourne is giving its citizens more sophisticated late-night drinking options than ever before. There’s Nieuw Amsterdam in Hardware Lane serving pork hock nuggets and cocktails until 5am, while over in Collingwood, Le Bon Ton is about to make fresh-shucked oysters and Hurricanes a late-night/early breakfast possibility. And here on Franklin Street is Loch & Key: a real-deal all-night bar.
Housed directly above bushranger pub Captain Melville, Loch & Key gets the better half of the 150 year-old bluestone building - namely, its huge second floor Queenslander-style verandah from which you can peer down upon increasingly hectic Franklin Street while sipping a Gimlet in peace.
They’ve ditched Melville’s colonial theme up here. There’s dark wood panelling, exposed copper piping, a mirrored drinks cabinet and the head of a stag. Tunes strike that rare balance between inoffensive and interesting - leftfield R&B and dubby electronica. Take that as permission to bring your sense of fun.
Captaining the good ship Loch and Key is seasoned Canadian barkeep Sarah Miller, and her cocktails are better than you deserve at four in the morning. Order a Vida Fiasco. Smoky mescal, fresh passionfruit, agave and lime is shaken and served over a hunk of ice. It’s fruity fun for grown ups with the smoky liquor giving it a peppery kick in the pants. An Overhaul is a spicy, peaty party of Lagavulin whisky, dark rum, herbal Rosso Antico and poached cherry syrup –picture a fruit pudding set on fire and poured over ice. Smart stuff.
Only five drinks make up the judicious menu, but Miller and her staff will make anything you damn well please. That includes a shot of whisky and a can Brooklyn Lager. You’ll see few of those twosomes around the room. At 2am, the place fills up with off-duty bartenders, rocking up for knock offs. Come early, on the other hand and it’s possible you’ll be drinking alone – not undesirable in itself as it means you have a chance at a bar stool or one of the little confession booth nooks.
The wine selection is as brief and smart as the, with three white, three red, and a minerally La Linea rosé tempranillo. Beer drinkers win. Loch & Key serves local faves like Hawthorne IPA and citrusy Mornington Witbier along with American imports like Pacifico for mid-early-morning refreshment.
Up until now the chicken ribs and empanadas have been coming out of Captain Melville’s kitchen, which closes at 11pm. But as of next week, it’s all going to be tasty toasties and charcuterie that you can get until 5am. Game, set, match.