11 Rainbow Alley
Melbourne, VIC 3000
I’m a big fan of bars that go out of their way to also serve up good food. Given that I’m all about the grub, bars don’t hold much allure for me. I’m much more keen however if the bar is also known to have amazing food, and whilst I’m there, I might be persuaded into ordering a drink.
I’ve heard some phenomenal things about Cabinet Bar and Balcony, regarding both their selection of tapas and delicious cocktails. Being a Monday, it wasn’t overly busy in the small, dark bar, but that’s because everyone wanted to be on the balcony, nestled amongst the leaves of the trees lining Swanston Street. We managed to get a seat, but it was a near thing in the lounge room sized space.
Like I’ve often said, I’m not an alcohol person, but the idea of Rosé Sangria ($11) was a tempting one. The bowl of sangria swam with bright pieces of fruit and glittery ice cubes, and tasted almost like candy. The lightness of the rosé made for a refreshing twist on the beverage that was perfect for summer.
Mondays mean macho nachos at Cabinet, and we got a not-so-mini serve of Mini Beef Nachos ($14) for just $10 (we also had the option of a beer/house wine, but it seemed a waste considering we weren’t going to drink it). Anyway, the worst thing that can happen with nachos is when you get to the bottom, and there’s nothing but dry chips. Well that was definitely not a problem here, as the corn chips were layered with a tottering mound of tender pulled beef, spicy beans, as well as the usual trimmings. I loved that the beans had a genuinely spicy kick, but if you’re not into that, the sour cream and fresh scallions will cool you right down.
I had originally planned to visit on a Wednesday to take advantage of the $10 flatbread pizzas, but the Chorizo, Olives, Feta and Basil Flatbread ($19) was so good that I didn’t mind paying full price. You could smell the fat and spices in the chorizo the moment it hit the table, mingling with the musty feta and fragrant basil leaves. Each bite was heaven, and the crispy flatbread base meant that you didn’t feel too heavy afterwards.
I, like many people before me, was surprised by just how much I liked Cabinet Bar and Balcony. Not only does it have the golden trio of food, atmosphere, and service (they’ll take your order from the table!), it also has the added bonus of feeling like a hidden gem. The word has gotten out however, and this once-hidden bar is now something of a worst-kept secret, so make sure you take advantage of the fact that you are now able to book!