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Melbourne Bars Where You Can Drink Alone with a Book

Get cosy with a paperback and good plonk at these comfy (and relatively quiet) bars.
By Kayla Larson
April 03, 2019

Melbourne Bars Where You Can Drink Alone with a Book

Get cosy with a paperback and good plonk at these comfy (and relatively quiet) bars.
By Kayla Larson
April 03, 2019


Get cosy with a paperback and good plonk at these comfy (and relatively quiet) bars.

Being alone is wonderful. Especially if you love nothing more than a quiet solo venture with your newest paperback squeeze. Adequate lighting, quality drinks and comfy perches for single derrières have been paramount when choosing these best ofs. As well as those that are inspiring the literature community at large.

Sink into someone else's couch, have an author sign your book, join a book club, cosy up with a fire, get fresh at an alfresco table, raid a liquor-licensed library, or simply smash a good vino whilst reading alone in a courtyard — these are your best Melbourne nooks for reading a book.

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    Willows & Wine

    A mere stroll west from the Queen Vic Market rests Willows & Wine. As well as wine, the walls are stacked with pre-loved books organised according to genre — you’re welcome to pick one up while you’re sipping and, if you can’t put it down, all are available for purchase. A few shelves across from the bar are dedicated to a hoard of games. Hiding not so inconspicuously is an original 70s robot boxing game, the sort that hungry hippo aficionados would probably be grand at.

    This is easily a place you could visit every night of the week and not regret a thing. Chatting to bar staff will be near impossible not to do, they’re wonderfully friendly and even host their own book club evenings at the bar. Sit anywhere, order a whiskey — the place is made for you and your readathon quest.

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    It’s the type of place where afternoons easily bleed into evenings and you could quite happily be mistaken for thinking you’re living the European life as you watch the foot traffic drift on by. The bar is old-world charm polished with a retro edge, with one of the main considerations when opening was to create a space where people could come to read and write.

    This makes ample sense as one of the owners, Emily Bitto, is a published author herself. Head inside where lamps hang above the bar from recycled window awnings which make for a soft subdued vibe to your page-turning (or book-signing) affairs.

    Image: Brook James.

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    The Alps

    The problem with reading is that one’s eyes drying out between page turns. The Alps have bibliophiles covered, as its selection of fine wines means more sips, more blinks and more chapters conquered. Hop on the 72 to get you to the Commercial Road residence, and go with the staff recommendation: a glass of something that is a little tight to start with, but opens beautifully over a few chapters.

    That way you can follow two stories, one being the narrative in the book, the other, the narrative in the glass. When it’s cold, wet and windy outside, head to the cabin: the bar’s back room with a fireplace.

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    La La Land

    A CBD joint that provides those living room vibes when your own home is too full of empty pizza boxes and you need to clear the grey matter from your brain. Venture down a street (Little Lonsdale) and scurry down a lane (Hardware) and hop up a level (one) to La La Land, where a lavishness of brown Chesterfield-style couches await.

    Inside, the Brooklyn warehouse-esque windows provide the light, and around you, a motley of suits, casuals and dates are a spatter. A good place to bring a mate or just a book for a boozy read. There are also some nifty drinks specials for the thrifty, with $5 wines, $6 spirits and $9 pints between 4–8pm.

    Images: Kristoffer Paulsen. 

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    Bar Josephine

    So you’ve gone to raid Savers for some second-hand books but found nada? Let your weary legs take you to Bar Josephine, one of Footscray’s friendliest dive bars, whose walls are teaming with read-in specials. The barkeep recommends choosing your drink according to your genre. Or, at least, take a squiz at the #tuesdaybooksandbeer list to help you make a decision.

    On tap, there are a dozen beers. The mocha stout you most likely can’t afford (unless it’s happy hour Wednesdays) so nab a rosé and sink into the ketchup-red bench seats. There’s also a gravelly courtyard with cement sheeted walls — that are screaming for some Rone licks of paint — which is bright and perfect for reads.

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    Low Key

    Ride the 86 all the way to Northcote’s trimmings and stop off at Low Key. This underrated bar is the relaxed vibe you want for reading. Inside, you’ll find a choice of olive-green velvet couches to cosy up on, with local artist prints and painting adorning the walls. Outside, the courtyard hosts oodles of light to keep your globular organs happy for when you stray back to your book.

    Overhead, hip hop plays — the likes of Mos Def and De La Soul whose grooves offer a trance-like accompaniment to your Steinbeck. Recommendations from your barkeep are to sit with a beer or a wine. We recommend a pint of Bodriggy Draught — just five bucks between 4–6pm — or an orange number sourced from neighbours Samuel Pepys. There’s no kitchen but you can order in pizza from Primo across the road. 

    Image: Mark Owen. 

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    First up, you’re going to have to choose between many a thing here: one hellava lush courtyard, cosy booth seating, or hiding in the toilets with Pinocchio-nosed faucets. And that’s not to mention the drinks. This is a classy place for a solo read and, since Joanie’s specialises in spritzes, we chose the Select — it’s half way between an Aperol Spritz and a Campari soda. It came from Venice during a time of deep turmoil and has blossomed into a very good aperitif.

    To sustain yourself, order a snack of lupini beans. They’re traditionally eaten whilst sinking beers and playing cards — or reading, as you’re here to do. Treat your lupini like a backwards olive: bite and suck the soft shell to reveal the salty yellowy bean centre. Or just demolish them whole. 

  • 3
    Little Andorra

    Little Andorra is where editors go to relax and unwind over the multitudes of text they need to pore over. There are many charms to this casual wine bar that rests on a sleepy corner of Nicholson Street: awning-covered alfresco seating out front, a leafy bricked-in courtyard to the rear, and a long wooden wrap-around bar inside that’s ideal for sharing quips with the staff.

    Banter is a third arm to the crew here, and the lip-smacking bites — like mussels with ‘nduja, burrata-laden pappardelle and house-made porchetta — that match the extensive list of wine doesn’t hurt either. The bar opens from 2pm daily, and the light that shines through that yonder window should be enough to call you in, if the aforementioned hasn’t done the job already.

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    The Flying Duck is one of the oldest pubs in Melbourne (pushing as far back as 1868) so it comes as little surprise that it holds such a special place in the hearts of locals. Especially for those who crave a country pub in the city that we find hard to leave.

    The Duck has a spot for whatever mood your zine-smashing, poetry-raving mind is in: choose between the rustic brick indoor bar, the conservatory and marquee spaces that provide an inside-outside setting, or the outside courtyard that’s presided over by some beautiful palm trees. The good thing about The Duck is that nobody’s a VIP and everybody’s a friend.

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    Sig. Enzo Aperitivo Bar

    Serendipity brought us here, as not only were there spots with perfect illumination for page turning, but we got to delve into the deepest darks of our Glaswegian protagonists with our host for the night. Sig Enzo is a sneeze away from Sydney Road and run by the Mazzone daughter-father duo. Sitting bench-side means the bar’s 1950s-style lights will keep your optometrist happy and make you feel most at home (well, at least someone’s classy front reading room sorta home).

    Stave getting too blotto whilst plot-deep and remember to order some of their bites: fried stuffed olives and arancini, or a larger plate of burrata.


Top image: Willows & Wine. 

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