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Now Open: Floating Bar and Restaurant Afloat Is Back on the Yarra with Margaritas, Mezcal and Mexican Bites

The Melbourne favourite's latest seasonal makeover will let you spend spring and summer on the river celebrating the culture and flavours of Mexico.
By Sarah Ward and Suz Tucker
September 20, 2023
By Sarah Ward and Suz Tucker
September 20, 2023

Like the scent of jasmine in the air or the overwhelming urge to Marie Kondo your home, Afloat reopening is a signifier that spring is well and truly here. The Yarra River's floating bar and restaurant has become a Melbourne warm-weather staple, and is now back for its eighth iteration — this time sporting a whole new persona as the newly minted Afloat Viva Mexico.

After drawing inspiration from the Balearic Islands in 2022 and Turkey's Turquoise Coast in 2021, the Afloat team has now spun the compass in the direction of Mexico, with nods to Oaxaca, Tulum, Guadalajara and Mexico City blooming to life across its interiors, the food and drinks menus, and its music and entertainment.

Design-wise, Afloat Viva Mexico has gone for both colour and natural tones — so, yes, ample contrast. With splashes of lime, apple, teal, aqua, fuchsia, burgundy, musk, citron, sand, tan, moss and jungle green, this year's look takes its cues from the '68 Mexico Olympic Games design by Lance Wyman. You'll see the results featured on everything from the facades to umbrellas — and, of course, in the venue's bars.

Two watering holes within the broader spot are all about Tulum vibes, complete with stone bar tops and thatched roofs. On the lower deck, the city's beach bars have influenced a brand-new lounge and dining area that includes cabanas and a DJ booth. Up top, more cabanas await, plus high bar tables, low dining tables, and plenty of greenery — not just the 80-year-old olive tree, but also banana palms, agave, prickly pear and cactus.

Food-wise, Executive Chef James Gibson is focusing on spicy bites. "This year's menu celebrates the bold and complex flavours that Mexico is known for. It heroes rustic, produce-driven cooking, executed with simple but skilled everyday techniques," he advises.

On offer, featuring seasonal and hard-to-find ingredients: seafood platters stacked with oysters, scallops, prawns, clams and lobster cocktails; raw bites such as prawn aguachile rojo, salmon tiradito and baby snapper ceviche verde; and a tostada range paired with house-made dips that changes daily. Or, go for the tacos from the downstairs hut — braised brisket and crispy pork sausage, barbacoa with lamb shoulder, and pork shoulder with pineapple and chilli are among the options.

Love Afloat's woodfired pizzas? They're back — but Mexican-style. Fancy a roast suckling pig torta, flank steak with chilli butter and mole verde, or either a coffee tequila caramel chocolate flan or salted caramel and lemon cream corn cake for dessert? They're on the lineup as well.

The drinks by Cocktail Director Tom Younger unsurprisingly favours mezcal and tequila, as designed to match the bites or simply refresh your parched throat in the spring and summer sun. This year's spread features more than 20 cocktails, 12 of which are on tap — plus Mexican beers and 50-plus wines.

Of course margaritas are in the spotlight, including spicy, pornstar and with yuzu. Or, opt for the frozen chamoyada mezcalita, or a boozy version of the traditional hibiscus-infused agua de jamaica. And that gin collaboration that Afloat usually sets up with Four Pillars is back, this time distilling the latter's pink gin with Mexican oregano, habanero chilli, bitter orange and agave syrup, as well as pink grapefruit and finger lime and grapefruit — then pouring it into G&Ts and pink gin spritzes.

If agave tempts your tastebuds, the new pool area will feature its own bar dedicated to it — so, yes, you know what to sip while relaxing on one of the double day beds — when it opens in the near future.

And if you're a fan of Afloat's entertainment, DJs play daily from midday — and Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day events are already on the calendar.

Find Afloat at 2 Flinders Walk, Melbourne across spring 2023 and summer 2023–24, open from 11am–late daily — head to the venue's website for further details and bookings.

Images: Jake Roden / Griffin Simm.

Published on September 20, 2023 by Sarah Ward
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