Bars and Nightclubs
Melbourne CBD, Melbourne

The Toff

252 Swanston St, Melbourne, VIC
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The Toff, as this Swanston Street bar is known to locals, has the feel of a private club. It's divided into distinct spaces, a performance area that plays host to jazz and cabaret sets and a bar with red leather stools, but best of all is the partitioned space full of comfy curtained booths like an old fashioned railway carriage.

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Review of The Toff

Review by Matthew Ricks

Despite a collection of rather gruff and capricious bouncers at the entry below, The Toff, which is located on the second level of Curtin House on Swanston Street, is a very welcoming and enjoyable little venue. In an adventurous layout, it offers a rich variety of options for its patrons depending on their mood and what they’re looking for.

The venue is divided into two main indoor areas with a few cosy balconies overlooking Swanston Street and a larger additional caged smoking area out the back. The main bar or ‘Carriage Room’ is fitted out with what can best be described as a train carriage running down the center that is made up of booths which can be reserved for dining and mingling.

The setting of these booths are intimate and authentic as each one can be made as private as desired by the process of closing doors and pulling down blinds and all have a discreet buzzer for service. The Carriage Room bar is impressively stocked with a sophisticated beverage list housing local and imported beers, wines and spirits. Cocktails are also available for those who wish to add an extra splash of decadence to their evening with the Bubble Tea being an instant classic. It is advised, however, you come well prepared as the setting and allure of the carriage room has constituted a rather pricey experience.

The carriage booths are also perfect for dining as The Toff’s restaurant Choochoos (they are carriage booths after all) boasts an admittedly steep, but attractive Thai menu that operates well into the night. If patrons wish to revel in a more energetic setting, the Stage Room adjacent is a prime area to get accustomed to.

The Toff’s Stage Room hosts an encompassing spectrum of what Australian performing arts has to offer. Comprising music from pop to dance and ensemble and utilising touring international acts and even theatre, the room’s capacity ranges from 150 (fully seated) to 300 (standing only). Self described as "a naughty room with an intimate cabaret feel", the stage room incorporates band performances before later transforming into a gritty nightclub featuring local and international DJs well into the night (one being dressed as an ancient Egyptian pharaoh transsexual as this writer witnessed one thought-provoking Friday night).

The Toff’s pros do however lead to its major con. All this entertainment and booth permeated ambiance makes it incredibly popular and as such the lines at the bar in both rooms can be daunting and simply navigating yourself from one area to another can be arduous and time consuming. This isn’t too much of a problem in the Stage Room, as it’s meant to be crowded, but if you would like to reserve a booth, you should arrive early.

The patrons are indie/classy types ranging from early 20s to mid 30s. The club is a classy yet accessible venue that offers a vibrant and memorable setting for whatever you’re looking for. It’s perfect for a group of close friends wanting an intimate booth for a birthday or catch up. For those interested in a more intense clubbing experience too, just tell your wallet first.

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A Second Review of The Toff

Review by Kimberly Salleh

Curtin House’s second floor bar The Toff in Town on Swanston Street lies in the heart of Melbourne City. I was ready to survey the venue on arrival, but honestly couldn’t move thanks to an overflow of patrons, let only form an opinion of the décor!

I’ll set the scene. Friday night. 8pm. Dinner. Unique old-school train booths line the middle of the room. A mix of tribal drum and bass fill each carriage, seating no more than six guests. The lighting was amber creating a warm and inviting feel. A mixture of corporate groups and sophisticated couples filled the bar and standing spaces. Quirky hipsters lingered inside the band room awaiting the next coveted gig.

We fought our way through the bar with lines as far back as the first carriage. Much of the venue was warm and my winter woolies were stripped off once seated in the private booth. I wasn’t taking the chance and venturing into the outside world again, for a while!

Greeted by our waitress, we were looked after with share plates given the menu was fairly obscure and foreign to our palate. Cuisine was fast to arrive, though greeted by a small flying insect, I forgave this and dug in nevertheless. The Massaman curry was a group favourite and dumplings never fail to impress in a Thai restaurant.

Whilst the food was fast and décor inviting, the cocktails were slow and unimpressive. A full and cohesive cocktail list had me bursting with excitement. Garnishes were lacking and tastes were particularly dull. The bubble cup cocktail, exclusive to The Toff in Town, is something young and quirky. The cartoon like cup and tea based drink goes down a little too easy and is a cool alternative to the over used Cosmopolitan or Pina Colada. Try the Fruit Haiku: shochu, sake, peach, oolong tea and vanilla pearls.

What do you do if you need assistance? Peering out the closed curtains, you could see the venue filling up around you and the volume increasing. Just ring for service and your waitress will come running! One press of the distinct red bell inside of our carriage and the waitress who I assume also had to fight her way through the growing crowed beckoned. Prices are mid-range and fairly satisfying given the hype and atmosphere surrounding this coveted location.

After dinner, you have the option to venture further inside where The Toff showcases live music 7 days each week. The concept is grand and definitely one to see if exploring Melbourne’s nightlife.

The Toff excels. Give it a crack but be prepared to wait in line or hire a private carriage. Dining is affordable and satisfying, you’ll find an extensive beer, wine and cocktail selection ranging from $10-$45. The Toff is a stylish and sexy place to house your next mid week fling.

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