Most Melburnians of a certain vintage have a story about Cookie. A bar, mod-Thai restaurant and disco, it was among the first in a rash of all-in-one venues that tempted you in with food, then refused to let you go — often despite your better judgment!
Cookie commands the first floor of the fascinating 1920s Curtin House building on Swanston Street, and is accessible via lift. It’s a grand space with a casual, erratic persona —a bar/restaurant by day and early evening, then later, more of a nightspot with DJs and dancing. (The kitchen closes at 11pm daily, except Friday and Saturday, when it’s often open later.)
Once through the entry and into the waiting area, you’ll be struck by the sight of a bar some 20 metres long. You’ll also see two large dining spaces either side.
Getting around is simple, as the spaces are large and open. But be warned — this place gets busy. It’s one of Melbourne’s favourites, after all. There have been times when it’s a good 20-minute wait for the bar and pushing through the crowd is slow going. Best to beat the hordes to a table and get comfortable early.
Classic, old-world décor, including bentwood chairs, gold finishes and dark timber, are offset by a loose, block-lettered logo dominating a main wall and a large column plastered with gig posters. A happy combination of ‘high’ culture and ‘low’.
The menu is modern Thai. We’re not 100 per cent sure what that means, but expect noodles, fish and pork dishes. Chilli, lemongrass and coconut all make a regular appearance.
At the back of the bustling main area is a cosier bar with low tables. We sit with Nathan and Hector – two of the guys who keep Cookie running. Nathan plonks down a wine list as heavy and comprehensive as a dictionary. There’s nearly 90 pages of wines and 40 pages of beers. Nathan and Hector tell us some off-the-record stories about this grand old dame, and we learn two things. One: there’s a hell of a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes. Two: don’t jump up and down in the lift unless you have spare 40 grand.
We think visiting Cookie when in town should be mandatory – there must be fine print somewhere that says so! Its layout makes it pretty easy to get around, the bar staff are great and the liquor choices unparalleled. The toilet won’t win any awards, but it does the job.
The lift is staffed by security after 9pm, so you might have it to yourself. Just don’t jump up and down.
(Thanks Sarah, Nathan and Hector)
Step-free / Accessible Toilet (GR) / Lift
Good: Go for the name, stay for the atmosphere
Not so: People can crowd for the small lift (at least before 9pm)
Level 1, Curtain House, 252 Swanston St, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9663 7660