Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Melbourne's friendliest sports bars
Although the words 'sports' and 'culture' rarely sit comfortably together in a sentence, Melbourne's sports culture is one of the best things about this city. Any day of the week you'll find a group of die-hard fans watching one game or another - and few sporting events draw out more die-hard fans than the Ashes. Pubs and sports bars all over Melbourne are advertising their coverage of the cricket over the next month, and the array of choices on offer is staggering.
Why watch the 2013 Ashes at the pub when you can watch it free of charge - and with cheaper beer - from the comfort of your own couch? Of course it's not just the match that's important, but the community: people to cheer with, celebrate with, or (more realistically) complain with. That's why drinking holes all over Melbourne rake in the profits over the course of the Ashes, selling an aid to celebration if Australia are victorious and a means of drowning sorrows if Australia loses. Whatever the result, it's a win-win for the bar-owning community.
Turf Bar on 131 Queen St in the CBD is a fine choice, with a thriving sports-bar atmosphere and a food menu to match. This isn't the place to order the cheese platter and canapes. Big meaty options are front and centre on the menu - try a Wagyu burger or a porterhouse steak. Cricket fans looking to double down on their Ashes nutrition might be interested in the ominous-sounding Parmageddon, offered on Wednesdays. Food aside, they've got two huge screens and a host of scattered little ones - wherever you're standing, you'll be able to see what's going on - and some pool tables for more physical entertainment. If you're happy just to sit and watch the cricket, park yourself on one of the old-fashioned bar stools: no back support, but the ambiance is terrific.
P.J O'Brien's in Southbank is a standout option for good food and ambiance. It's an Irish pub with a great menu (including a cheese platter, if you were wondering) and even an oyster bar. They recommend you book for a meal, but it's child-friendly and you don't need a reservation for the bar. One warning: the website currently lists the Ashes as being played without sound, so if you're looking for crowd noises and commentary you may want to have a chat with the staff.
The urn itself (photo by Dan Greef).
What about all the England supporters, afraid to go to Aussie bars for fear of getting mobbed? The Elephant and Wheelbarrow is a good option: located on 94 Bourke St in the center of the city, it bills itself as a traditional British pub. The food bears it out: lots of filling meat-and-potatoes options, including a full English breakfast for late risers. In what must be an attempt to compensate, there's even a genuine meat pie floater on the menu (no word on the consistency of the pea soup).
In a city full of drunken Australian cricket fans, the Elephant and Wheelbarrow is an oasis of British territory - but make sure you know a back way out if things go badly and the place is sieged. A friendly English atmosphere might be a good thing, but nobody wants a patch of Melbourne to become forever England.
Know any good bars or pubs that are showing the Ashes in Melbourne? They're not hard to come across, but that just makes finding the best ones more difficult. Let us know in the comments - win or lose, it's always more fun with a beer in front of you and a friend on each side.