Just getting to the Croft Institute feels like a little adventure. It's located at the bottom end of Croft Alley, off a laneway in the heart of Chinatown that happens to be one of the finest galleries of “uncommissioned art” in Melbourne. If you're okay with the combined aromas of wee and rotting cabbage, be sure to stop and check out a few murals en route.
The Croft itself is spread over three floors, each dimly lit and infused with the same cold, slightly creepy atmosphere. The ground floor resembles a dark and eerie med-school classroom, with display cases of laboratory equipment, polished tiles and little gas taps for hooking up Bunsen burners. Upstairs, pass through a waiting room complete with flickering, wall-mounted television to the Departments of Male and Female Hygiene (aka toilets), which bear an unsettling resemblance to hospital examination rooms. The top floor, which opens after 10pm, is styled after an old-fashioned high school gymnasium with bleachers for seating and live grass growing on the bar.
The music leans a little toward the phat beatz end of the spectrum, which is disappointing given the imagination that has gone into every other aspect of the place. But the odds are you’ll forget what you were listening to anyway after a few of their potent cocktails.