If you're craving snacks in Melbourne's CBD at 2am, you no longer have to do the walk of shame to the Swanston Street Macca's or eat dirty dumplings on Little Bourke Street (again). That's because the Grossi family — the very same Grossis who have a slew of award-winning restaurants on Bourke Street — has opened Arlechin, a new bar that is shaking up Melbourne's bar scene by offering cocktails and fancy finger food from 5pm until 3am.
You'll find this new late-night dining venture just behind Bourke Street down Mornane Place, an alleyway that has been tarted up with fairy lights and a large mural, the bins and outdoor toilet removed. The bar is halfway up the alley, the door marked by a lone candle in a jar. Push open the black steel doors and walk into a small 40-seater space that looks like it picked up design tips from an Italian confessional or a castle wine cellar on its way to Melbourne. The statement vaulted ceiling is covered in cork tiles, which are lit by spotlights and dramatic hanging lights, and black steel walls outline the space, with the occasional gap revealing the seemingly endless bottles of wine hidden behind them.
It looks like somewhere you'd share midnight secrets — hidden in a booth off to the side — so it's kind of disappointing when a black-clad staff member directs you to one of the bar tables and stools cluttered around the open space. But it's probably best to save your secrets for another venue, as the loud music, which occasionally delves into club house vibes, doesn't really facilitate whispering.
What the venue does facilitate is drinking — and eating — well. The guns from Romeo Lane consulted on the cocktail list, and it shows. Although the cocktails are often on the sweeter side, they always hit the spot, like the Bee's Fix ($19), which tastes like a fancier version of eggnog. The cocktails are all reasonably priced, too, between $16–$20, which is unexpected when the short list of wines by the glass also hovers around the same price. There's an extensive list of wines by the bottle, for those looking to confess their sins long into the night.
The menu is just what you'd expect from a Grossi bar, traditional meets fun on snack-sized plates – although, unlike the cocktails, the food doesn't always hit the sweet spot. The saffron risoni with bone marrow ($12) is subtly moreish; the jaffle bolognese ($10) tasty, but not the rich bite of comfort we were expecting; and the sloppy joe ($6) is an underwhelming twist on the classic with cod.
At only a few months old, Arlechin feels comfortably Melbourne, settled into the town in a way that bodes well for its longevity. Although there are a few kinks to iron out, we have no doubt that generations of Melburnians will wash up in the bar in the early hours of Sunday morning in years to come, ready to confess their Saturday night sins over cocktails and a sneaky plate of midnight pasta.