Melbourne is known for its dark alleyways, dark corners and darker personalities (hello, Lygon St ). But, for some, this is what makes Melbourne unique and special. Those darkened places that only the few know about are in high demand at the moment, if you can find them. And this is where Sister Bella comes into play.
A distant cousin to the shamefully closed St. Jeromes, Sister Bella is a tiny bar in the middle of nowhere. Well, not exactly. The middle of the CBD, more like. But judging by its position and clientele, you feel like you've walked directly into a San Francisco hippie hangout.
When you find yourself at the front door, don't freak out. It's not what you think. During the day, the lower floor bar section is completely dead: not a soul to be seen or heard apart from the chefs slaving away in the kitchen. I say again, don't fret. It's not closed. Make your way up the stairs at the back and keep going upwards. Follow the sound of hipster music and clinking cups.
This is where the real Sister Bella lies. Running with the darkened theme, the main area is all corners, edges and wooden walls. The seats, while not exceptionally comfortable, fit the overall 'shabby chic' aesthetic. Small tables abound in strange formations, so find one (shouldn't be hard during the day), take a seat, check out the menu and order away.
The menu is simple, classic Australian cuisine: kanga burgers, crusty pizzas. But everything has a nice twist which places it outside the norm: saganaki burgers, pizzas with preserved lemon, melty cheese balls, and chips with a lovely garlic aioli. While not pretentious, and certainly priced that way, the food conjures up a lovely warm feeling. It's almost like sitting at home, without the omnipresent TV and self-made food.
Another note on the food: the excellent pizzas are all $6 until 6 every day of the week. Damn good excuse to have an early dinner.
Drinks are pretty basic, but one stands out among the crowd: mulled wine. This nutty, herbal invention is a staple of Sister Bella, and they excel at it. Perfect for a slightly colder night, the tumblers of warmed wine certainly pack a punch.
So, if you can find this elusive bar, you'll be pleasantly surprised. If you can't, well, there's always McDonalds across the street.
I tried to find this place on my own, one night, to meet some friends inside, but it was almost impossible: I found myself looking around quizzically for false walls or secret passageways along Swanston/ Lygon. I ended up having one of them come out and meet me, and was led into a tiny alleyway that I did not know existed. Sister Bella is definitely one of those 'Melbourne' venues you hear about- very shabby, very hipster-, and though the drinks were nothing special, it was good to be let in on the secret. This is a place to take friends from interstate, if you want to impress them with your Melburnian street-cred.
By Laura Woollett - senior reviewer Sunday, 13th of February @ 07:17 am
(And by "Lygon", I of course meant "Lonsdale".......Silly me.)
By Laura Woollett - senior reviewer Wednesday, 16th of February @ 08:51 am