Ask after Lui on the ground floor of the Rialto tower, and you’ll be buzzed into a surreal, black and neon elevator and whisked up to the 55th floor so fast your ears will pop. The visual overload continues once you arrive; having been greeted by the waistcoated maître d’, the whole of Melbourne suddenly flattens itself out at your feet.
Lui, attached to the recently relocated Vue de Monde, has a strong claim to being the most spectacular bar in Melbourne. The bar itself is lovely, but the view of a huge swathe of the city and harbour is what truly sets it apart; your attention is constantly drawn out of the room and down to the toybox version of the city below. There is however a great deal to see inside, if you’re able to tear yourself away from the floor-to-ceilings long enough. Silver-rippled wallpaper and satin-encased couches surround a bar surmounted by an eye-catching arrangement of plastic cloud-like structures.
In this elegant but offbeat setting you’ll find a menu which draws heavily on Australiana for inspiration. The cocktail list is designed to reflect Victoria’s rough, colourful history; therefore we have the Lola Montez Spider Dance Fizz, named for a 19th century exotic dancer whose routine involved pretending there was a spider in her clothes and they simply had to come off, the Sous Vide Shrub, which echoes a means by which early settlers preserved fruit and got their drink on, and the Koala Stinger, a surprising, eucalyptus-infused take on a 1920s drink craze.
Snacks run the gamut from caviar and oysters to haute cuisine versions of such suburban favourites as ham and cheese toasties and chicken noodle soup. While querying the logic that might lead a person to order a highly evolved version of student-flat food in such a setting – is that how the rich do irony? – we can’t help admiring the moxie involved in assembling such a menu. We’ve a hunch that Shannon Bennett kid might do OK.