Now Open: Gimlet's Long-Awaited Little Sister Apollo Inn Has Landed in Flinders Lane

Andrew McConnell's first standalone cocktail bar, Apollo Inn, has just opened in Melbourne. Come along and set your watch back to 1956.
James Shackell
Published on June 16, 2023

Take a nod to one of Melbourne's first public houses, add hospitality legend Andrew McConnell and the team behind Gimlet, shake well over ice and serve — that's the recipe behind Apollo Inn, the CBD's newest cocktail bar. Apollo Inn occupies the ground floor of McDonald House at 165 Flinders Lane: a neo-Renaissance-style building that dates all the way back to 1924. Just the sort of heritage you want for a classic, moody European cocktail lounge.

The name 'Apollo' is a nod to one of Melbourne's first public houses, located on the corner of Flinders Lane and Russell Street, where Gimlet now sits. This place is technically Gimlet's little sister, and you can see the team's fingerprints all over it. For example, ACME, the Sydney-based design firm that handled Gimlet's dining room, were called back to help with Apollo Inn.

Still, the two venues aren't quite the same. Gimlet often feels light and airy, like a brasserie. Apollo Inn is going more for that underground, triple-distilled, wood-panelled, High Society vibe. The bar seats just 28 patrons, which keeps everything feeling intimate, and Gimlet's bar manager, Cameron Parish, is moving across the oversee the transition. As you'd expect from the latest venue in McConnell's Trader House portfolio, the attention to detail is bang-on, from the leather-studded front doors to the paper-topped table lamps.

"We're excited to dedicate such a beautiful, intimate space to the refinement of great spirits," says McConnell. "It's a singular focus at Apollo Inn; to ensure that what's in the glass and on the plate are delicious and benchmark."

Drinks-wise, you can expect wines by the glass and bottle, curated by Trader House beverage director Leanne Altmann, plus signature cocktails like the Lucien Gaudin, which combines gin, Campari, dry vermouth and Grand Marnier. Martinis come in four speeds: dry, dirty, Gibson (with the obligatory pickled onion), and café.

Apollo Inn is more about booze than food, but there will be a stripped-back menu featuring snacks and small plates, designed to match whatever's in your glass. Expect prawn and spanner crab club sandwiches, raw tuna with cured sobrasada, or old-school classics like beef carpaccio. The menu is designed for snacking rather than feasting. Everything bite-sized, spiked with big flavours like anchovy and truffle. The perfect nightcap before calling an Uber.

Following the success of other old-world Melbourne venues like Trinket and Bar Margaux, Apollo Inn looks like it's been time-warped straight out of 1956. And that's just fine by us. Lock it in for your next date night.

Apollo Inn is now open at 165 Flinders Lane, every day from 5pm to 1am. Bookings can be made via the Apollo Inn website but walk-ins are encouraged.

Images: Earl Carter

Published on June 16, 2023 by James Shackell
Tap and select Add to Home Screen to access Concrete Playground easily next time. x