Time Out Melbourne

Cabinet is in session for all your casual drinking needs, and they’re here to stay

Cabinet fits the bill of the Mythical Hidden Melbourne Bar Of Legend: you go down an alley and climb a set of stairs next to the back of a sushi shop, where you enter a dimly lit lounge bar that leads to an outdoor balcony overlooking Swanston Street.

Pretty formulaic, right? Well, the charm of Cabinet is that there is almost no staff turnover, so they remember your face and drink every time – they call everyone here “Honey” and get away with it. Their drinks are anything from Boags off the tap to an expertly stirred-down Negroni. And if you feel like a vodka, lime and soda, you will not be judged. The Martinis here are pretty mean, but from the look of the crowds, the bar survives off the sale of gin and tonics.

You’ll see a lot of the same faces here if you frequent Cabinet because it’s a house of regulars. Music geeks will come here for a feed and a drink before seeing a gig up at the Palace; hospitality types will hide here in their breaks throwing down shots with beer chasers; and then you have your post-shopping contingent, who tend to drift toward the balcony with their half-dozen bags, watching the flow of the main street beneath them.

You can book your table. They’ll whack some furniture together and write the name and booking time on the table top with a piece of chalk. Cabinet doesn’t try to pull off fancy food to go with their drinks, which is kind of refreshing: if you get peckish, the go-tos are the fried eggplant chips or flatbreads. Flatbreads are actually just pita breads mimicking pizza, with toppings such as pumpkin, feta, onion and ricotta or tomato, bocconcini and spinach at $17.50 each. They’ve got a bit of a house-party vibe to them, but there is nothing wrong with that.

If Cabinet is a secret, then it’s pretty much the worst-kept one in Melbourne. Little has changed here since Kath Camfield and Alan Bell first opened it in 2007, but then why fix what ain’t broke?

Updated on 3 Nov 2015.

By Jess Ho   |   Photos by Graham Denholm

Cabinet Bar and Balcony details

11 Rainbow Alley, Melbourne 3000

Telephone 03 9654 0915

Nearby Stations: Flinders Street; Melbourne Central; Parliament

Open Mon-Fri noon-late; Sat, Sun 4pm-late.

Cabinet Bar and Balcony website

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Cabinet Bar and Balcony map

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