In the early 20th century, Manchuria, the north eastern region of China, was a hotspot for nightlife, opium use and alcohol – a place to bury your secrets and forget about your everyday existence for a while.
Fast-forward to today and Chinatown’s Manchuria Bar is a hidden gem known for its buzzing nightlife and delicious drinks, offering Melburnians a chance to escape the everyday grind.
Located down an alleyway and up a challenging staircase, the opium-den-esque venue rewards all those who persevere, with an atmosphere like no other. It first opened its doors more than 12 years ago but it wasn’t until owners Mark Dang and Jasen Keane took over in 2014 that it uplifted its distinctive vibe.
Mark’s no stranger to the concept of cool – he also owns a tattoo parlour – so he seamlessly combines old-world hospitality values with new-world ideas, creating a space where both blind dates and 40th birthday parties are welcome.
The region from which Manchuria Bar takes its name is neighboured by Russia, Korea, Japan and Mongolia, meaning it’s bubbling with culinary influences. The drinks list pays tribute to this diversity with a distinct range of signature cocktails, wines, beers and spirits. Head Bartender and Manager, Jack Lin, is responsible for this creativity. Born in Taiwan, Jack has been working in the bar industry for over five years, and shares Mark’s appreciation for tradition and a desire to transform it.
Some of the cocktail highlights include the Mona Lisa, Lemon Drop, Tiger Under The Bed and The Infamous Zombie. But if you’re looking for love or trying to impress that first date, order the Bittersweet Lover: it comes with fresh rose from the local florist.
If you’re just after something simple like an espresso martini, the friendly and charismatic staff are more than happy to whip up whatever your heart desires.
The bar also serves 35 to 40 local beers and a wide range of local whiskies and wine. In addition to that, Manchuria offers a comprehensive variety of tequila and mezcal. A selection of Asian tapas is also available, with staples like vegetarian spring rolls, pan-fried pork dumplings and Peking duck, meaning you won’t be short for a nibble in between drinks.
There’s certainly something curious about Manchuria. The dimly lit space with Asian decor accents is paired with ambient music, make visiting not just about a night out, but discovering a new chamber of secrets. One thing’s for sure: unveiling Manchuria is a transformative experience. You just have to get up the stairs.