Level 2, 16 Corrs Lane, Melbourne Victoira
Hidden deep down a grungy laneway off Little Bourke in China Town, in amongst the dumpling houses, ramen bars and tourists touting green tea ice cream, is Melbourne’s secret gem.
It’s hard to miss the neon street art disguising the scaling cement wall towards the back of the dinghy car park at the entrance of Corrs Lane. Then in stark contrast to its surroundings, the building that encapsulates Berlin Bar is so quintessentially Old Melbourne.
Far from its Asian neighbours, Euro House could be anywhere in Europe with its Montmartre feel and architectural history. Inside the tall, twisty interior are lower, middle, and upper floors, each with their own unique nightclub concept.
Euro House could be an art gallery as much as it is a tower of bars. A narrow bland staircase brightened by stencil art leads you up two floors to a locked door. Don’t be dissuaded by the queue; trust me when I say it’s worth the wait.
When you reach the head of the queue, ring the bell. Look through the peephole until it’s your turn to enter. Once invited in, you’ll feel like you just entered a time warp.
Erected by the German Democratic Republic in 1961, The Berlin Wall was built to protect the communist East from what was seen as the fascist capitalism of the West. Fast forward to the Cold War, and the wall divided the Eastern Block and the Western Block until it was opened in 1989. Berlin Bar has adopted this concept and, despite the seriousness of this episode in history, have successfully made it fun without making a mockery.
Cocktails against a geopolitical backdrop? Yes please.
Welcome to West Berlin
Oh, the opulence. You’ll feel like you’re in someone’s penthouse for a fancy cocktail party. A golden glow makes the place feel warm and cosy. I could imagine guests taking their fur coats off as they enter and take respite from the cold winter as it snows heavily outside.
Designed by Rene de la Soyo – architect, designer, musician, artist, music producer AND owner of Euro House – Berlin Bar used to be his bedroom. I imagine all the nights he must have spent tucked away in this incredible space dreaming up his vision.
Contrasting textures, shapes, and colours, along with the art, props and lighting effects reveal the depth of thought and planning Rene gave to the design.
Red velvet pillows on white chesterfields, chandeliers and gold-framed windows, art deco wallpaper and a stunning crystal curtain.
A mezzanine floor guarded by ornate wrought iron creates a dark, intimate space for canoodling under a sexy red light that reads ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’. The statement was taken from President J.F. Kennedy’s famous speech in West Berlin in 1963, the same speech he said: “Freedom has many difficulties, and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in.”
With a soundtrack of electro swing, jazz, European pop, and tango depending what day or time you visit, the music is as much a part of the experience as the styling.
I can imagine lounge room jazz blaring out of the working antique radio and turntable, while guests dance seductively, cocktail in hand. Highfalutin’ clients might lean against the bar, pinkie cocked, sipping amongst the glamour.
This is democratic West Berlin, which may seem exclusive, but everyone is welcome on both sides of the wall.
Checkpoint Charlie was the dangerous crossover between East and West. Here, it’s a little tongue in cheek as you travel through to old East Berlin. Check out the hot air balloon over the bar – that used to be the only way to escape to the West.
Hit with a menacing red glow and grunge, the contrast is clear. Louder music, theatrical lighting and genuine 50s war relics give this space a distinctly different feel.
Charlie Chaplain as ‘The Great Dictator’ is on endless loop on the rough brick wall. A real East Berlin traffic light fixture sits high up, overlooking the war-era bunk beds, complete with genuine matching blankets.
There are dark corners to disappear into, or a long wooden table to party with friends.
Imposing faces in kooky paintings will make you feel like you’re being watched…perhaps a glimpse into what it would be like to live in the reality of communist Germany.
The result? I feel rebellious. It’s raw, a little bit dirty and hugely fun – despite the reminders of its harsh history, the Eastern Bloc is the place to party.