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I keep wanting to refer to The Moat as The Vault mainly because this place has nothing at all to do with crossing over water but a lot to do with going underground.
The Moat is a great little cafe/bar tucked under the Wheeler Centre building.
The Wheeler Centre runs a fine program of literary events and is also one of the venues for the Melbourne Writers' Festival, so it is great to have this newish establishment where you can await friends or just curl up with a good book - of which there are any number. Unfortunately, you cannot take some off the shelf as they are imprinted on the wallpaper, but there are a number of real books. Better still you are welcome to exchange the title you have just finished with one from the Moat's communal book case.
The books proudly make the statement that this is a bookish establishment, part of the literary precinct which encompasses the Wheeler Centre and the State Library. This is likely to be the place where you can meet some like-minded people.
Up until November 2011, the only cafe in the State Library was Mr Tulk, which was named after the State Library's first librarian. My impression is that Mr Tulk would not have approved as the cafe is clattery and noise ridden, an impossible place to sit and read quietly or have a subdued scholarly chat.
The Moat however makes amends for this. This is a cool underground nook, away from the glare and bedlam of the city streets.
There is quiet music and comfortable seating and the interior decor is interesting to say the least. Walls are bright maroon and covered in gold dust. There are sepia photographs of all kinds of books and characters from Ned Kelly to kitschy film stars plus interesting lights and knick knacks everywhere.
The menu is eclectic and plentiful but surpassed by the drinks list which goes on for endless pages. We all know writers like to drink and here is just more proof. The cocktail list will knock your socks off.
If you happen to be going to a literary event at the Wheeler Centre or perhaps a show in town they do have a pre-show special between 5pm and 6pm. It is $20 for a glass of wine and a main. Some of the choices include green lentil dahl with apple yoghurt roti, Sicilian eggplant stew with toasted almonds and oregano aioli or Moat meat balls in Napoli sauce with Grande Padona.
If you are just in for drinks they have some nice share plates to go with them as well as bowls of cumin popcorn.
While called The Moat rather than The Vault, this is certainly a repository of all things bookish and for many of us that is akin to gold.