There's definitely something voyeuristic about peering through a peephole. A bit risque, so to say. Especially when what's on the other side is rumoured to have been an old Chinese opium den in the '30s. Luckily, this isn't one of those small bars without signage, so there's no need to second guess what currently lies beyond the door. Once inside and down the unassuming staircase, a refined underground den of bricks and graffiti is revealed.
Welcome to PLAY BAR. This place is an edgy drinking factory with some serious exposed brick action going on. And hanging over the bar are large industrial style lights, old iron crank tables are scattered throughout, and there's an old school hip hop montage and even a ghetto-blaster. Oh yeah, and there's a massive 'play' wall piece of graff by Beastman & Numskull. The overall feel is raw yet ironically polished. Somehow it works.
Sarah and Dan are the peeps behind this latest addition to the Campbell Street scene and their backgrounds in hospitality, marketing and graphic design are evident. They've been involved in all aspects from designing the logo, creating the cocktails, choosing the tunes and even doing the reno on this Melbourne-style bar.
And so to the all important booze. There are eight beers (think Four Pines Kolsh $8), cider (Apple Thief $8.7), many spirits (starting at $8), and non-alcoholic options (dry ginger ale $4). Wines are either Australian or French and start at $7.50 by the glass.
Then there's the cocktails. Yes, they've had fun with their 'play on words' with names like Foreplay, Playboy, and Playful. There's seven classic cocktails with a twist, as well as three invented ones (by Dan). We tried the Secretplay ($16), (Absolute Vanilla Vodka, Havana Club Dark Rum, ginger beer and lime), and the Powerplay (Pampero Rum, 42 Below Vodka, guava juice and Redbull). Both are served with a kiwifruit slice. Both hit the spot.
Nibbles are straightforward with a range of charcuterie, cheese and stuffed olives to choose from. They're generous portions served on slate boards and choices include lavono proscuitto, le conquerant camembert and labneh olives. The Magic Plate ($32) gets you a choice of three olives, three cheeses and three charcuterie.
For music it's all about records. Funk, reggae, drum 'n' bass and even house all get a look in, and different nights have different styles. They're even setting up a night for locals to get in on the action and choose the records.
We think it might just be time to hang out with the locals and have a bit of a play. Enjoy.