Cabinet Bar and Balcony

Posted on June 21, 2011

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Having been on the scene for well over 3 years, Cabinet Bar and Balcony (11 Rainbow Ally, Melbourne VIC) is a Melbourne mainstay in my books. In fact I would say it’s one of those places that epitomizes Melbourne. So much so that I tried, although it was in vain, to secure a booking there one Saturday night to take an out of towner.

Unless you’re looking for it, you wouldn’t even realise that it’s actually right in front of your eyes. Cabinet’s balcony, along with its signage actually faces out to Swanston Street, but its entrance is tucked away in a nondescript ally off Little Collins. Hidden in a little nook behind the RMIT Business Campus you will find a true gem shying away from the usual hustle and bustle of the city.

Having failed a dinner and drinks visit, I settled for lunch instead. On any ordinary day, Cabinet would be quaint; on the particularly wet and windy winter’s day we went, it was positively lovely. Behind the front door is a staircase decorated with dozens of picture frames. The bar runs across half the length of the left side and a scattering of 2 or 4 seater tables fill the remainder of the cosy dining room. The small balcony facing Swanston Street seats about 20 or so punters. Damask wallpaper, chalkboard menus and chairs hung up on hooks make up the wall dressing creating a comfortable cottage like feel.

The menu is small but with a decent enough range. The chorizo, ham, mushroom and olive flatbread ($17.50) was really just a pizza with a slightly fancier name. Nonetheless, it was delicious and full of strong flavours.

The mini beef sanga ($14.50) looked deceivingly small but was quite filling. Four little parcels of tender beef, salad, mayo and spicy relish held together with cocktail toothpicks. Did I mention that the bread on this was fabulous? It was a yummy warm turkish bread instead of the usual sandwich loaf. How can one go wrong with this order?

Also at $14.50, the dijon and ham toastie with a side of saganaki (Greek appetizer of pan fried cheese) seemed a little overpriced, but was actually a rather decent stand alone meal. I thought the presentation of this dish really added value, and no, I’m not being sarcastic. It was ever so cute to present the saganaki in its own little clay dish with the toastie next to some greens on a rustic wooden board. It only loses some points for the missing lemon wedge. Every hit of fried cheese deserves some acid to cut through the saltiness!

For those inclined to visit after hours for drinks and a nibble, the house beer (Boags) comes at a very cheap $3 a pot. I for one am definitely listing Cabinet as a cool after work drinks spot and I’d be curious to see what the night and weekend vibe of this place is like. Well, only one way to find out…

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