Old World spirits and contemporary comforts rule at Russian Market’s most sophisticated new bar. Long After Dark. Writing by Joanna Mayhew. Photography by Charles Fox.
When Melbournites Brendan McCarthy and Nathan Headlam set out to create their Toul Tom Pong-based bar, they simply envisioned a place filled with their favourite things: craft beer, Aussie pub food, eclectic music and a hell-of-a-lot of whiskey.
Now a reality, Long After Dark – open since April – has raised drinking standards in the capital’s southern neighbourhood by a serious notch or two. The converted shophouse is meticulously designed in picture-perfect old pub aesthetic, making it a welcome escape from the outside world, with rich woods, warm lighting and a long, speakeasy-style bar that appropriately dominates the narrow room.
Behind it – and accessible to bartenders via a sliding library ladder – more than 75 whiskies line the distressed wooden shelves, with 45 single malts from Scotland, along with Irish, Canadian, Japanese and Bourbon varieties.
The Laguvulin ($12), a single malt from Islay, Scotland, is on the bold end, with a heavy peat-smoke taste and rich oak flavour, making the 16-year-old malt a perfect choice for the serious whisky drinker.
The 12-year-old Aberfeldy ($8.5), from the highlands of Scotland, presents a cleaner, fruitier malt, with a touch of honey and spice. Pours range from $3 to $12, to appeal to both whiskey connoisseurs and novices.
“We wanted to make it accessible to everyone,” says McCarthy, who has compiled a “whiskey bible” with the profiles of the spirits to assist customers in selecting their drink. While bottles are sourced locally, the duo hopes to expand their range in the coming months. “There’s a whole lot more out there,” says McCarthy.
Whiskies also find a home in the bar’s cocktail offerings, which represent classic drinks with a twist as well as some original concoctions. The Long Apple Jack ($5) adds Jameson to fresh blended apple juice, making for an unpretentious, even and not-overly sweet drink. “It’s about balance,” says McCarthy. “You’re often dealing with very powerful flavours of alcohol, but [mixing] it with the right amount of counter-flavour is key to making it enjoyable.”
The cocktails even take in the venue’s local craft beer selection, which includes ciders, IPAs and chocolate lagers on tap. The strawberry mojito ($5) combines the usual Havana Club, sugar syrup and mint with strawberry cider, adding a welcome fizziness to the old-school drink.