It’s hard to imagine Al Capone in relation to Geelong, but the 18th Amendment makes me think in strange and different ways. It may be the mild influence of the cocktail I’m sipping, but I imagine the infamous smuggler would feel right at home in this alley bar.
Approached via a narrow staircase and decorated with exposed wooden rafters and framed black-and-white vintage photos, it has a sleek speakeasy vibe that could appeal to any aspiring mobster.
Its cocktails are loosely inspired by the Prohibition era, including the signature Boardwalk Empire. This memorable drink arrives in a small wooden coffin, and when opened, you will momentarily glimpse the smoke which is a key ingredient, alongside the whisky, bitters, almond syrup and apple juice.
This bustling bar is a good example of the recent blossoming of restaurants and bars on Little Malop Street, a narrow lane in the heart of Geelong’s CBD.
“No matter what you want to eat or drink, there’s something for everyone here,” says 18th Amendment director Damien Kos-Beckwith, and he’s right – there’s an impressive array of options along the Strip. See the18thamendmentbar.com.au
STAY SOBER WITH RAMEN
My goal is to have a progressive dinner, so it’s time for an entree to Sober Ramen. This compact restaurant fusing Japanese and Asian cuisines is a simply decorated space with bare concrete walls, slate tiles, and wooden tables.
Despite the simple decor, it has a warm and friendly vibe, full of first diners this Friday night. I try a few dishes from the entrees side of the menu, which includes such delicacies as steamed greens with sesame miso vinaigrette, spicy calamari and fried oyster mushrooms. I suspect the spicy calamari would pair well with the venue’s sake selection. See facebook.com/soberramen
ARTY LATIN AMERICAN DINNER
Stop number three is Alma. As often seems to be the case in Geelong, this is a restaurant that serves a contemporary take on regional cuisine – in this case South American – without the chef being from that region. It’s a plus, according to owner Jesse Hughes, allowing “traditional flavors with modern techniques.”
It’s good food. Locally sourced beef is a menu feature, but the seafood highlight is barramundi with moqueca sauce; and the vegetarian option of roasted cabbage with chilli and chickpeas is equally appealing.
Decor here is sleek and dark, with a touch of aquamarine to brighten up the walls, and the entrance is dominated by an intriguing painting of a face with dripping streaks of paint. See almarestaurant.com.au
Geelong cellar door. Photo: Greater Geelong & The Bellarine Tourism
The finale of the evening is a nightcap at Geelong Cellar Door. This place advertises itself as “a real local wine bar”, and its shelves are stocked with bottles from the wine regions surrounding Geelong. I notice there is also comfy seating by a fireplace in the back, which is just my speed.
The main menu is dominated by cheese and charcuterie platters, including a vegan variant. It’s the perfect place to end my evening with a glass of Heroes Vineyard shiraz, and not just because of the atmospheric decor with its high ceilings, tiled bar, cozy booths and log fire. The place is buzzing with good vibes, filled with groups of friends enjoying wine and good food. What’s not to like? See geelongcellardoor.com.au
FLY OR RIDE
Jetstar flies to Avalon Airport, near Geelong (jetstar.com); Alternatively, Geelong is an hour by train from Melbourne (ptv.vic.gov.au), or just over an hour by ferry (portphillipferries.com.au).
Quest Geelong offers comfortable apartments in a central location from $177 a night. See questapartments.com.au
Tim Richards was hosted by Tourism Greater Geelong & The Bellarine.