23- 25 Hardware Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9600 1574
I, like many Melburnians, have warmly embraced rooftop bars. While smokers love them because it means that they are in a bar environment where they are still free to light up their Stuvies, I like them because there’s just something about having a few glasses of wine with a few friends after work while the sun’s still out and the weather still a smidgen above 30 degrees.
One rooftop bar that city workers have been quick to embrace is Campari House, the former site of Campari Bistro which opens its doors in 1968. While Campari House still does the traditional Italian lunch and dinner fare – on the ground floor, its first floor is set aside for private functions while its second floor is a classy lounge. Complete your climb and enter the doorway that leads to the rooftop however, and you will be greeted by a scene that would not be out of place in a program of Video Hits in the 90s. Think choreographed dance parties on the beach. But without the choreography. And the beach. And substitute hot babes and Richie Neville for city workers. It was only 6pm on a Thursday evening and we had practically walked into a party that was in full-swing (that didn’t stop, even after we walked in).
With Adam and
Artie Ziff Luke in tow, I tried to make my way to the bar to order our drinks and dinner but it was a task. If that was difficult, you can imagine how hard it was to score a table. After standing around awkwardly with our drinks, Luke spotted a group of girls leave a corner table and before he could finish saying, “I think those girls are about to–” I was at the table as quick as lighting and frantically gesturing for them to come join me.
Oh hi there, Adam! After ordering pizzas and more drinks at the bar, I sat back down with the boys and took in our surroundings. While Campari House may not be as funky as Rooftop Bar or as sophisticated as Siglo, it certainly has a bit of something in it that makes people want to come back again. I doubt it’s the astroturf or the red umbrellas and I doubt it’s the bartenders who, while certainly competent, don’t have the same panache as those who work at Sweatshop and Emerald Peacock. Whatever it is, though, I’ll take it.
I’ll also take the jug of L’Americano Grande ($26), which is said to be enough to keep 2-4 people happy. Although the individual cocktails here are pricey (on average, they are $18), the jugs are a steal given that most places charge between $32-35 for a jug that big. They also do wines and beer too, but the wine that I wanted wasn’t available (and had to make do with an alternative for my first drink) and the beers available on tap would make any beer snob faint, especially since the best beer they had available was a Boags. But anyway, the red stuff in our jug was a twist on the Americano, the bitter cocktail that was made famous by Mr Bond in Casino Royale. In addition to the obligatory vermouth, campari, soda water and orange slices, there was a hint of lemon juice to give it a bit of a tang. Extremely light and refreshing and injected with the right level of bitterness to keep the grown men happy – perfect for a balmy summer night.
I’ll take another Campari soda, thanks.
We decided to share two pizzas between us, both of them 10 inches in diameter and thin-crusted. The first one was a basic margarita ($16), which only consisted of the most simplest of ingredients – tomato, fresh basil and buffalo mozzarella – for a pizza with a whole lot o’ taste. There was something in the pizza, however, that prevented me from fully enjoying it – it had a slightly musky aftertaste that I couldn’t quite put my finger to…
Thankfully, the maialona pizza ($18) fared much better. I normally steer clear of any form of ‘meat lovers’ pizza but I couldn’t help but tuck into this one eagerly. It had a tomato base and a lot of oink in the form of smoked ham hock, hot salami and rustic Italian sausages. Sure, I would have liked the dough to have a bit more life but then again, not everyone can be a Ladro. I’d still give this one a thumbs up.
Okay so the pizzas may not have been THE best pizzas ever, the bar staff made Daria Morgandorfer look like Savannah Monroe and the views aren’t the best in town (who the heck wants to gawk at a carpark and the Commonwealth Bank building?! Not I!) but there’s something in the air (badoom, ching!) at the Campari House rooftop bar that just makes me want to return again and again…