Saturday, 4 August 2012

Croft Institute - The Journey of the Beautiful People

Yesterday was certainly a slow news day. The headlines involved Bill Shorten having a "misunderstanding" with the owner of the North Carlton Convenience Store about a meat pie and remarks that she may or may not have said about Julia Gillard is the best that can be reported on when we are involved in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, something is indeed awry. I suppose it distracted the media from usual banal topics though. One thing I will say about Bill Shorten, who appears to be the Minister for Everything, that is he always appears quite busy. Proven by the fact that he wants to eat a pie on the run when he could be languishing on a Friday afternoon enjoying foie gras at The European is slightly refreshing.

One of the most over-used words these days is "journey" as every chef or even inane contestants on reality television shows seemingly have to undertake one to finish a dish, develop a skill or get to the point where they are turfed off a show that nobody will remember six months from now. A true journey is what Homer described in The Odyssey as you venture from Little Bourke Street to the end of Croft Lane where you will have to avoid "slaughter and blood and the agonized groans of mangled men" as Homer would say.

If you are brave, your odyssey will take you down the winding Croft Lane, which is not far from intersection of Russell Street and Little Bourke Street in Chinatown. Passing street art and vandalism you make your first left turn. You are then confronted with rubbish from the restaurants and sometimes tramps. Another right turn will take you along a laneway where you pass skips full of decaying food, more rubbish, vandalism, the smell of urine and on my last visit, human faeces. At the end of the lane-way you get to a foreboding door but once you pass into The Croft Institute, it is as you are in another world where time ceases to exist. The journey as the reality television contestants like to reference is worth it.

The bar is spread out over three themed levels. Depending on how busy the place is will dictate whether the top floor will be open but it is worth a visit if it is. Before becoming a den of inequity, the site was abandoned for twenty years and the place manages to keep the general feeling of desolation and mysteriousness. The ground floor is adorned with items you would find in a chemistry lab, high tables and stools and you are quickly absorbed into the overarching theme of the place. This is one of the few bars that I have found that that flogs Marilyn Manson absinthe, which despite its pedigree is actually really good and unlike the boring Absinthe Salon in Sydney, limitations are not placed on you should you want to indulge in the anise-flavoured spirit. The bartenders have always been extremely knowledgeable and should you not wish to indulge in the green fairy, leave it to the professionals to make the drinks based on their suggestions as you will not find a drinks menu. When nature inevitably calls, you will need to go to level one to find the toilets. The theme changes to a hospital-like waiting room which is fascinating as you walk past their licensed vodka distillery. On the weekends, Croft gets busy but not insanely busy like you would find at a superclub on King Street. I have never found too much pretension here, and is completely opposite to what you find at Cookie, where people here generally have been friendly and unassuming. Despite the loud hard trance style music not really being my thing it strangely pairs well with the place and never served as an annoyance or even a distraction to enjoying myself. This is a bar that you will have no problem spending all evening at and my recommendation would be to head to Manchuria afterwards which is within stumbling distance.

Croft Institute, Croft Lane, Melbourne

Croft Institute
Link to review
21 Croft Alley  Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9671 4399
no web site
My Rating: 16/20
Service: 4/5
Ambiance: 4.5/5
Quality: 4/5
Value For Money: 3.5/5
Comment: Marilyn Manson Absinthe is available



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When I made this post, 86% of the reviewers on Urbanspoon liked The Croft Institute. I think you will too.

The Croft Institute on Urbanspoon