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Open: Daily 4pm-3am
Founded by Melbourne bar legend, Vernon Chalker (back when that whole ironic/retro look was first coming together) and one of Melbourne's original laneway bars, Gin Palace helped kick off the inner city's rejuvenation back in the late '90s. More than a decade later it's still going strong, still drawing the crowds and still making one of the best martinis in town. While that aesthetic has since been adopted by countless venues, the mix of plush, vintage couches, dim lighting, rustic paintings and endless nooks and crannies give this laneway favourite a unique charm. Even after all this time, few venues have managed to pull it together as well as Gin Palace. The cocktail menu is one of Melbourne's finest and specialises in martinis. That said, the bar staff are all professionals and take an active interest in your drinking. It's the sort of place where people ask what your favourite spirit is and what you're in the mood for before suggesting something from the menu. Their speciality is the 1951 - a dry gin martini served in a Cointreau-glazed glass with anchovy-stuffed olives. Naturally, they offer a full accompaniment of top-shelf liqueurs, wines and imported beers on top of all this. Bottom line, the Gin Palace is a Melbourne institution and a bar everyone should visit at least once.