Freelance writer exploring Melbourne and beyond. If you enjoy the following article click on the Like button, Facebook it to your friends or subscribe. I'll update you with yummy and often free events. Like my photos? I instagram @redbagwilltravel
Published February 16th 2015
For the love of cocktails
For the love of cocktails! Image taken by Harriet Dashnow
In the Little Red Pocket Cocktail Bar Melbourne there are large screens showing models striding confidentially along the catwalks on FashionTV. If they could walk off the screen and into the bar they would certainly feel right at home. This is a fashionable place to be.
There are parties of girlfriends dolled up for the evening and groups of suits who have just finished work and hurriedly ditched their ties. Some time during the evening the well dressed guys and dolled up girls will start to mingle, chat and dance.
We watch all this from the sideline, perched on our high padded stools but our mission is of a nobler order. We are here for the love of cocktails. And with the Little Red Pocket Cocktail Bar voted number 8 in the list of the top 100 bars this is a drinking assignment we intend to take seriously down to the last drop.
It takes us ages to come up with our order because the drinks list contains so many stunning temptations.
I'll mention a few and you will understand out dilemma. A Queen Himiko made from fresh passionfruit with accents of green apple blooming and the taste of orange blossoms; a Kawaii (Japanese word for cute) with the flavours of vanilla, strawberry and coconut and a See You In Yomi, vodka lengthened with jasmine green tea and cranberry juice. See what I mean?
The first thing to note is that the Little Red Pocket is a Japanese inspired bar, so lots of the cocktails make use of ingredients such as Japanese whiskey (a drink becoming phenomenally popular in the West) and infused saki of which they have an extensive list. Well-known mixologist, David Van Lersel, came up with the initial cocktail list. It features Jumai Sake (a full-bodied sake), Umeshu (a Japanese traditional distilled liquor) and Shochu (a traditional clear distilled spirit that has been enjoyed in Japan since the 16 century). David Van Lersel genius with such traditional ingredients overflows into each glass.
We start with a couple of Little Red Pocket Cocktail Bar's signature cocktails. I order a Mr Miyagi, and as the movie inspired name suggests, this is a master cocktail.
Served in a traditional Japanese ceramic cup it is a mix of Yamaki (12 year old Japanese whiskey), raspberry puree, plum wine, tart cranberry juice and finished off with an elaborate twist of fresh lemon and a garnish of mint.
As soon as my Mr Miyagi was in sipping distance the smell of fresh mint was tickling my olfactory sense and the first taste was like entering my nose into an aromatic nosegay. A definite thumbs up to the talented bartenders who are obviously careful to use only the freshest of ingredients.
My daughter orders a Lychee Long Time an Eastern inspired cocktail of fresh cloudy apple juice, aromatic Junmai sake with a hint of rose. A succulent fresh lychee is skewered across the top. The taste is subtle and refreshing and the gentle hint of rose made this a cocktail to remember.
I'm not a sweet tooth but couldn't resist trying a Jammi-San, with its promise of the flavours of a baked tart. It came in a round contoured champagne glass with a frothy layer of sake mixed with chunky raspberry jam and then sprinkled over this frothy layer was a roasted nutmeg covering. I was half expecting to be run over by the sugar-hit bus but to my delight there were only hints of all these flavours. Like all the cocktails at the Little Red Pocket the flavours are subtle, carefully constructed and memorable.
While I have concentrated on the cocktails, you can also enjoy spirits, wines (including rice wines) ciders and international and Japanese beers. There are a number of happy hour periods (often running up to four hours) throughout the week where many of these drinks including champagne are only $5 a glass. For a list of the happy hours click here. Cocktails are around $18 but later on I'll tell you about the VIP membership which gets you two for one.
Izakaya Inspired Food
In Japan izakaya is a drinking establishment (similar to a pub), serving tapas style food that's meant to be shared among groups of friends.
Little Red Pocket Cocktail Bar serves an izakaya style menu with items such as mini wagyu pocket burgers, twice cooked pork belly served with sweet soy sauce and dried chillies, beef tatami (thinly sliced beef marinated with spring onion, ginger, garlic, lightly seared and served with a spicy soy sauce) and spicy kara-age which is fried chicken served with a sweet and spicy sauce.
We opted for the Ebi prawns because so many commentators had singled them out as being sensational. And yes, have to agree they are delicious. They are a line of lightly fried tiger prawns served with a creamy Japanese mayonnaise and sprinkled with a scattering of toast almond slices. There were also so many of the little critters lined up. No skimping on the good life here.
A plate of crunch tempura vegetables accompanies these with a dipping sauce. And while drinking we had the traditional Japanese bar snack of edamame which are lightly steamed soy beans (still in their shell) seasoned with salt ($5). To my delight and after many embarrassing moments that have included trying to eat someone else's empty shell, I now know how to eat these. It is a real party trick.
But the crab korokke dish is the one I would probably rush back for. These are fried crab croquettes served with okonami sauce. While the outside is crunchy, you can sink your teeth into the deep insides which are lush, soft and tasty.
The kitchen is also open until late, so its nice to know where to go for some great food in the wee hours of the morning.
The atmosphere is dark and cocooning. Lots of dark wood, cherry red upholstery and subdued red lighting. There is a small dance floor and a feature wall is painted with the rising sun. Keep an eye on the bartender who is just as likely to do some liquor involved flame throwing before the night is over.
Friday is DJ night and it's loud, so quieter cocktail moments should probably be done earlier in the evening. On Saturday night there are live Rnb/Soul performers
At the moment there is also free lifetime membership into the bar's Black Diamond program. This is valued at $500. If you are interested you should probably join before they change their minds. The membership means that when you arrive you show your card and get free entry not just for yourself but for your entire group. You also get to bypass any queues. The doorman phones ahead and when you arrive upstairs you are greeted by one of the managers and taken to a table if there is one free.
This happened to us when we arrived. We were lead to our perches by the lovely manager, Lizzie, who, like all the smartly dressed young women who work here, was attired in a short black cocktail dress. There is certainly an element of class here.
But best of all the membership means 2 for one cocktails from Tuesday to Thursday and 2 plates of delicious tapas for $10. There are also some very special prices on Fridays and then on Saturdays there are again two for one cocktails from 6-9pm. If you are interested in knowing more about the benefits of this card click here.