Bars and Nightclubs
Melbourne CBD, Melbourne

Carlton Club

193 Bourke St, Melbourne, VIC
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Carlton Club Review

Review by Julia Gailey

On the website the Carlton Club describes its decor as Hunter S Thompson meets David Lynch - this description screams, "take me to this intriguing place"! After one or two drinks you may believe you are at the Bar in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, as you notice bizarre large animals looming out of dark corners, and the intricate patterns on the floor seem the writhe if looked at for too long. Grass seems to sprout out of unlikely crooks of the ceiling. However don't be afraid, because on closer inspection that emu you bump into on your way to the bathroom is indeed stuffed. Why not pose for a photo beside it?

The lurid lighting, and excess of palm trees is brings to mind Dr Jacobys office in Lynch's Twin Peaks, (Jacoby is an eccentric therapist), and the excess of red and black suggests Lynch inspiration. So there you have it, on entering the Carlton Club you may find yourself thrown in to an atmosphere reminiscent of one of Hunter S Thompsons hallucinogenic descriptions, but it's ok because you’re in Dr Jacobys office, which if you've seen Twin Peaks is not very comforting at all.

However, the reference to Lynch and Thompson paints the Carlton Club as a strange and tormented place where nothing is as it seems which, unfortunately, it really is not. You can still get your standard beer and Palmer at the Carlton Club, and there aren't any dancing midgets serving that beer either.
Although the Carlton Club has a hipster reputation on a Friday night it becomes a suit haven, and on Saturday nights boasts a mixed crowd. If you’re looking for a big night the weekends are always packed out, and hosting an age group ranging from 18-35.

Drink prices are not cheap but neither are they expensive; the Carlton charges standard city venue prices ranging from $4.50 pots-$18.00 cocktails. So you can still drink beer, and enjoy a uni student worthy night here. There are also sharing cocktail jugs starting from $38.00, which could induce some fun communal times.

The food couldn't be described as cheap, where 'pub' meals are concerned. However, if you order the daily specials you'll find it extremely money worthy, not to mention delicious! Hint, go to the Carlton on a Sunday and order the special, a $12.00 organic beef burger, it really is like royalty in the world of cheese burgers. Sunday is also a great day to go and unwind, and enjoy the Carlton’s unique hipster atmosphere in a lower key weekend environment.

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A Second Review of the Carlton Club

Review by Matthew Ricks

Situated on Burke Street in the inner city, the Carlton Club not only boasts an impressive location but has the character and ambience to make it deserving of such a position.

Transformed under new ownership six years ago, the Carlton Club has steadily secured itself as one of the best bars in Melbourne - not to mention one of the most unique.

What immediately stands out about the Carlton Club is its retro-psychedelic, warm and utterly charming décor. As you make your way inside you are greeted with a visually enticing and aesthetic atmosphere. Red tinged lights melt into the various booths scattered comfortably throughout the floor while decorations of stuffed ostriches, paintings and even a mounted giraffe’s head grace the setting.

It may sound like a wild and clumsy arrangement but it has been done so playfully and elegantly that it is actually extremely inviting. With its soft lighting and velvety tropical tinge, the inside of the Carlton Club is a surreal, comforting and somewhat plush experience that could have come out of the 1960s or 70s.

The dining area is a little less tropical with stylishly modern tables and chairs, comfortable leather couches and a few stools and high tables for pre-dining drinks. Most importantly however, the inside of Carlton Club has a brilliant bar that acts as the heart of the entire place.

The bar has a flush array of beers and ciders on tap, even more that are bottled and a wide selection of your favorite wines. With a vast array of spirits, revelers can enjoy mixed drinks and are privy to a wide selection of playful and delicious cocktails. The Sundance Sour, which contains Aperol and Campari shaken heavy with Vanilla Galliano, white grapefruit, lemon juice and sugar is the bartender’s choice.

The prices are quite reasonable with most bottled beers and ciders at $7, pints at $9 and glasses of wine at around $9. Cocktails are a little pricier at $18 but are a treat that will be remembered.

The music at Carlton Club is also a noticeable triumph. A selection of rock, electronic, psychedelic and groove augment the soundtrack of Carlton Club but it is ultimately a place for mingling rather than dancing.

If you’re a fan of beer gardens then Carlton Club also has you covered. It hosts a marvelous and spacious deck with many chairs and tables. Lining the deck is a lighted quirky garden and bench.

The Carlton Club is a venue for all walks of life. With such a friendly and relaxed setting all are welcome and all can feel at home. For a bar that is located on one of Melbourne’s busiest streets, it’s a tribute to Carlton Club for providing such a removed, ambient and utterly fun atmosphere. Be sure to give it a visit and you will fall in love at first sight.

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A Third Review of Carlton Club

Review By Liam Jackson

I just want to get this out in the open: I love Carlton Club.

I love everything about it, I love the vibe, the people, and the cheeky bartenders who look at me with both a grudging respect and disdain because, let's face it: I've been here the past three days.

So when I walk up the stairs of Carlton Club, I have a little more skip in my step. I like a place where- if you are indeed a regular - the bouncers will nod their head at your arrival. They don't make a big scene so that you look like some deranged alcoholic who lurks in the shadows near the toilets, but a simple acknowledgement that yes, we do know you, and we will probably take your side if some lunatic comes at you with a jagged wine bottle.

The chances of this happening at Carlton Club are slim to impossible however, as the vibe is about as warm and friendly as you get. Melbourne City has this horrible ability to ruin so many decent night clubs with its token 'group of young men who may want to insert sharp metal into your neck'.

Carlton Club never seems to have this problem. The only way you might get cut is from a scathing remark some random hipster throws at you for wearing a terrible shirt.

A beautiful thing to watch is the crowd shift at this fine establishment. Before about 10pm it is mainly professional business folks in the 'not really middle aged' to 'severely middle aged' demographic. These guys are a right laugh and there's nothing better than watching Stacey from HR and Tony from Accounts have a bit of a pash after one too many Bulmer's. After 10 though, this gradually changes to a younger, more hipster crowd who are all moustachioed up to the wazoo with jumpers looking like something your nan might knit you.

The decor is famous at Carlton Club, and the day they take down the ostrich with the huge pearl necklace is the day I raise my fist in rebellion to the government and storm the streets. We've all had a picture taken with the giant giraffe head in varying states of mental decay: probably licking it or kissing it (or as I saw one young woman, making love to it). The dark wooden furniture is lined with lovely fabric cushions, the seats all match the walls, and the light fittings are 'retro styled but so new it's polished'.

Drink prices are standard erring on cheap. While many city clubs will charge you outrageous prices for a bottle of beer or cider, Carlton Club keeps it all pretty mellow. A good night can be had by someone with $50, as long as you don't let the so-very-cool-it-hurts-girls talk you into buying them a drink when the night drags on. Other options include an impressive wine and cocktail list, all of which once again are quite affordable.

My only problem with Carlton Club is its dance floor. I've spent nights dancing to Joy Division andThe Cure, but on other nights the 'dance floor' is a destitute wasteland in which no soul dares to cross for fear of social rejection. On weekends you can usually find a group up on their feet, but there is no 'real' dance floor so it can often get far too crowded in front of the DJ booth, leading to many drinks being knocked high into their air. The music itself is a mashup of cool indie bands you've never heard of, 80's electro pop, 60's rock and roll and whatever else the DJ feels like throwing in.

All and all, Carlton Club is perfect for those cheeky few drinks with your mates before hitting the town hard, or alternatively for sitting with some close companions and basking in the friendly warmth the atmosphere radiates. If you want a place to sit back, relax and hear your chums properly (without falling asleep on their couch before making it to the tram stop), this is definitely the place to be.

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Palmz @ The Carlton Review

Review by Tintin Rahman

Darkness cannot exist without light. The Palmz is the yang to the yin of The Bar within The Carlton Hotel. While The Bar features plush red velvet and leather lounges, dim, drop-down lamps and ornate peacock heads poking out of the wall, a dark and sensuous affair, The Palmz is a light, tropical affair that will encourage laughter and mingling.

I was there for a ‘Raiders of the Lost Bars’ meeting, a bunch of professionals in their 20s, 30s and 40s out to raid (and rate) Melbourne’s best bars. Because the weather was muggy, the 30 or so of us were moved from the Rooftop to the Deck. As I arrived slightly late, I did not glimpse the Rooftop. But I can describe the Deck.

The bar counter looks like it is propped up with bamboo sticks. Yellow, white and lime-green plastic chairs accompany small teak roundtables. We found it inappropriate to sit in small groups so we mingled standing up. The palm trees frame the floor, not crowd it. What it does is it encourages you to focus inwards, not outwards, and converse properly with the people you are with. I have a feeling that if the meeting had happened on the Rooftop as scheduled, it would have been different as the Rooftop probably has a good view and one could alternate between chatting and enjoying the view. That said, most members said they enjoyed The Palmz and the meetup.

‘Cocktail jug was sensational!’ ‘Best meet-up so far’ were among the comments on the group homepage. I myself had an Applejack Smash, a minty (there were 5 sprigs of mint leaves) affair made up of lemon juice and Hennessy VSOP brandy. At $18, it was standard price for a good cocktail in the city, comparable to bars like The Emerald Peacock. I thought it was worth it as I munched on the mint leaves. When I went downstairs to The Bar to talk to their manager of six years, Hannah, I set my glass on the bar and it was promptly taken away by one of the bartenders. After he realised his mistake, he made me another one, on the house. So I rate the customer service at The Carlton as being pretty good. One English bloke who was having a beer did tell me that he thought it was expensive, at $10. “I’m from England. Where I come from, if it’s double figures, it’s expensive.”

Rock music was blasting out of the stereo near the stairs (by the way, there are a lot of stairs to negotiate before you reach The Palmz; it’s like a maze in The Carlton). Another fellow bar raider commented that he would have preferred something a little lighter for socialising purposes, so ‘you could actually hear the conversation’. I enjoyed the change-up from the ‘chilled-out’ music you get in some bars.

To summarise, The Palmz is a leafy, intimate affair best enjoyed with other people on a hot day.

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