Hidden away on the outskirts of the CBD, with bottles hanging above the bar, Der Raum is a multi-award winning; unimposing little cocktail bar in Richmond that has taken the art of making the perfect cocktail to a new level.
- Well for starters its out in Richmond. Secondly for a cocktail bar; its entrance is unimposing and surprisingly dull. Its just up from the corner of Swan Street and Church Street.
- Type: Cocktail Bar, Absinthe bar, German beer bar
- Food: Limited Menu before 9 for functions
- Music: DJ
- Cover: None…although best to book
NOTE: If bookings are cancelled less than 2 days before the date (this includes no shows) there is a possible $500 charge is made to the credit card used for the booking.
For a while we have been hearing rumours about a bar out in Richmond that had the bottles hanging above the bar, however as it was in Richmond the feeling was that it would need to be pretty special in order to make an effort to go and see as there were plenty of bars elsewhere to see. It turns out though that it was pretty special as in 2009 it added 3rd in the “worlds best bars” top 100, to an extensive list of awards. To be honest though, with a bar as highly regarded as it is, some aspects of the trip exceeded expectations while others were…well, a kind of let down.
Without knowing a lot about the bar, the first thing is you would be excused for walking right past it without knowing what it was. For a bar that is in the top 100 list, I was expecting something special, a little more lavish than the brown 1970′s style front where you could be excused for thinking that it was the front door to an accountant’s office and walk right past. Once inside, apart from the crazy bar, its a little more of the same, very simple taking its German name’s sake “The Room” to an extreme. This simplicity became almost a little disappointing, to the point where I was wondering, what makes this bar so special? The lavish red lighting that is used to light up the bar goes a long way to highlight the bar service area. Although the real marvel to behold is hanging off the ceiling from ocky straps is a forest of bottles containing spirits, spices and utensils. As Der Raum sees the process of making the cocktail as being just as important as the drink its self, the effect of hanging the bottles off the ceiling adds a new dimension to the whole process.
The menu its self is very extensive, starting with the cocktails at the front ranging from classics to in house specials, then the list moves through to the bar’s exhaustive absinthe, German beer and spirits list. Its not until you start reading through the cocktails that you start to understand what the appeal of the bar is, the attention to detail in a list with a world of flavours on offer. However again, the cocktails were a little hit and miss at times. Some like the Lemon Buttered Rum Old Fashioned were exquisite while others; like their Martini; could be seen as a little flat. There are a couple of showpiece highlights there though, The Pharmacy comes on a little tray and on it a pill bottle with pear and roasted capsicum gin and ice, a syringe with bitters and a little pill, all to be mixed together and drunk slowly leaving the pill to the end. Or the Chocolate Cocktail #1 which uses liquid nitrogen to chill the cocktail to an ice cream texture, covering the bar in a fog when made. All of this comes at a price though, a standard cocktail there can cost between $20-$25, and serves of Absinthe can cost upwards of $100.
The bar service fluctuated throughout the night, at times there was hardly anyone inside, while at others the line to the bar was quite deep to the point where there was a bit of a long wait. Unfortunately the change between the two was quite sudden meaning that it was a bit of hit and miss when deciding to go and get a drink. The bar staff were very professional and doing their best job to serve everyone in a timely fashion, however some cocktails come with a warning that they aren’t served in busy time due to the time needed to make. Making a booking is well worth the effort however as seating can become a bit scarce at times, and its the sort of place most people would go spend a couple of hours rather than duck in and out for a quick drink.
Finally Der Raum offers membership to the Melbourne Temperance Society, which is $40 per year to join. This gives discounted cocktails throughout the year there, master class tasting sessions, and discounted speciality spirits. It is worth reading up about it on their website where you can join online or while at the bar itself.
Der Raum was a bit of a hit and miss adventure, it certainly should be up there on the list of bar to experience and their cocktails are definitely some of the best in Melbourne. Also its position in Richmond ensures people go there and make a proper night of going and experiencing it. There are however aspects that are kind of a let down considering how much you are paying for a drink. My issue though is there was something about it that makes me think after going once, I have experienced it and don’t readily need to go back…even with the Melbourne Temperance Society membership carrot being dangled out there.
Definitely go though, and as usual, make your own mind up about Der Raum as it deserves at least that much.
+ Some of the nicest cocktails in Melbourne
+ Very interesting speciality cocktails
+ Fantastic bar concept
- Comparatively expensive
- Its in a bit of a dead spot for surrounding bars and is a relative hike to get to