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Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Double Happiness, New Gold Mountain

Some names in Melbourne's bar scene are thrown around quite a lot. Everyone's heard of Cookie, the Carlton, Gin Palace, Supper Club. Since arriving in Melbourne in 2009, I have heard the name Double Happiness (21 Liverpool Street, Melbourne) a lot, and thought, 'What a nice name!' (DOUBLE happiness! Man, I reckon most people would be pretty content with SINGLE happiness) - not realising I had actually already been to this tiny, iconic laneway bar.

Double Happiness is topped by New Gold Mountain - technically a separate entity, but both bars are so small and so close, one would be forgiven for thinking they were the same bar with a different theme on each level.* They're run by the same crew as Lily Black's - a 'top marks' bar for its location (on Meyers Place) and its Art Deco stylings - and Mr Wow's Emporium on Smith Street (another place I've heard of a lot but not yet made it to... SAD FACE).

Liverpool Street is one of the many laneways that come off the Parliament end of Bourke Street. When you find number 21 - basically a doorway, like the entrances to so many of Melbourne's best hidden spots - head on up the staircase, and you'll walk into a small, dark, moody space. It's sparsely lit by lamps with occasional bursts of colour, such as the green glowing spots built into the bar that give off a 'universe' effect. Unfortunately, the dim lighting makes for not-so-great photos, but here is a molto-touched-up one so you can get the general gist:

Seating is limited. Hell, SPACE is limited. There are a few tall bar tables and a few low tables, and to one side is a raised, cushioned booth area, able to accommodate up to six people. We sat there, having been out for a cheap noodle dinner in celebration of my friend's finishing her job, and were overshadowed by this mystical, decorative piece on the wall:

I'm getting the Eye from LOTR. Just me??

We ordered cocktails, some of which were served in those fantastic low, round, 1920s-style champagne glasses:

And you may be glad to know there are some interesting and delicious-sounding cocktails available by the jug: 


Sufficiently inebriated, we made our way upstairs to check out New Gold Mountain. Here, the theme is predominantly red. These red lampshades hanging over the stairwell made for a spectacular entrance into the bar: 


We scored us another booth-type area, larger this time, still dimly lit. It felt warmer, but kindy seedy and classy at the same time - a bit like a bachelor pad meets a harlot's boudoir. With Chinese finishings.

We enjoyed the swish table service, and I particularly enjoyed checking out the design finishes (but I'm biased, because I luuuuuuurve red):

Separating wall

Light curtainy thingies hanging from the ceiling

Personally, I felt rather uncomfortable in Double Happiness. It was more like Half Happiness. It seems too small to fit enough people to create an exciting vibe, and I found its atmosphere oddly cold. Perhaps it would be a better venue for an intimate date.

I much preferred New Gold Mountain upstairs (although its name is kinda silly - I wonder if there is some interesting story behind it?). The secluded atmosphere and opulent furnishings are retained in both bars, but New Gold Mountain feels much warmer, due to the richer colours and materials.

Drinks are on the pricey side - as you would expect for fancy cocktails, lush settings, table service and a classy reputation - but expertly made. I fancy the clientele would be mainly small groups, happy to keep to themselves. You'll want to dress nicely and take your interstate visitors there, but although they're lovely, you could go months without even thinking to pop back in to either bar. I feel similarly about Gin Palace: maybe lush, hidden cocktail bars just aren't my thing.

Each to their own, right?

* Note: 29 April 2013 

Double Happiness contacted me to check I had been to the bar on the very ground floor, through the big glass doors - this is actually Double Happiness, next door to New Gold Mountain. I hadn't; it seems I was under the incorrect impression that Double Happiness started and ended on the first level. Please keep this error in mind with regard to this blog post. My apologies to both venues, and I hope to see you soon to amend my error!  - M.P.

Update: 12 June 2013

I recently popped into Double Happiness to check out the correct venue. Hallelujah, there is more space! It's basically one large room with a bar running alongside the entranceway, an attractive fireplace at the back, and low table/bench seating throughout. There is a small smoking 'den' at the front and a tiny courtyard area out the back that houses a couple of grungy toilets.

Bar tucked in alongside the entrance


Pointedly Chinese-themed with its artwork and finishes, Double Happiness still didn't blow me away. The bar staff were friendly and obliging, but I found my cocktail slightly disappointing (its coconut froth topping was too solid to drink through) and the drinks overall quite expensive.

We noticed a projector overhead - the place would be cool for an intimate screening of some kind - and I liked the cosiness of the fireplace. Otherwise... I'm not sold.

Double Happiness Bar on Urbanspoon

New Gold Mountain on Urbanspoon