Among the popular girls, pretty Polly takes the cigar
In the popularity stakes, Polly takes the crown, being the clear winner in 2016's People's Choice award. It's fitting, then, that on any given weekend half of Polly's inhabitants could be toting crowns too, such is her reputation among the hen's party set. With more than 15 years under her belt, this pretty Fitzroy perennial is a favourite for functions and it's not hard to see why. The plush, boudoir-inspired interiors were made for ladylike lounging, with deep leather armchairs, chaises longues and swathes of velvet, along with gilt-framed pre-Raphaelite paintings and Art Deco embellishments.
It's not all ultra-feminine froufrou, however. There's a strong cigar focus, complete with a well-stocked humidor, tasting notes for your chosen puff and a dedicated smokers’ courtyard out front (you actually enter the bar through this leafy, mosaic-decorated atrium). Whisky and beer feature on the lengthy menu, including a trio of cut-price boilermakers that cleverly marry the two (go the Japanese route with a stubbie of Asahi and a shot of Kakubin whisky). But Polly's most popular libations are the impressive line-up of Swiss, French and Australian absinthes, and the sharp selection of cocktails.
If you happen to find yourself in Polly during happy hour, $10 will buy you a My Fair Lady: a refreshing, refined blend of Fair gin, plum bitters, lime and a house-made blueberry shrub, topped up with soda water. If you have more cash to splash, zero in on the Acupuncture, which pairs Suntory whisky, yellow Chartreuse, lemon and ginger with a spritz of smoky Ardbeg single malt for a drink that's both strong and sensuous. While the cocktails are top-notch, the food offering is less than exemplary (the cold bacon and bourbon tapenade that accompanies the potato croquettes was just plain odd), but you're in the heart of Brunswick Street so there’s no fear of going hungry. Table service from friendly, focused staff, plus cocktail-making classes and absinthe-tasting sessions add to the enduring appeal of this good-time girl.