From the outside you may not realise Harley House is there, but just follow the sound of upbeat Latin tunes and you’ll discover one of Melbourne’s best kept secrets.
Since the 1920s the building has been used as an expansive doctor’s clinic, named after Harley Street in London. While there are plenty of doctor’s offices still to be found upstairs, Robert Hargrave and Vincent Fantauzzo had big dreams for the space below.
Descend the staircase and take a seat at one of the sought after-booths. With leather seating and a bustling, basement atmosphere it is easy to imagine you’re in one of New York’s renowned speakeasys.
Harley House is one of the biggest pisco merchants not just in Melbourne, but all of Australia, and so your first port of call should be to order a glass. One of the best ways to do this is with a pisco sour, Peru’s national cocktail. This refreshing drink combines pisco, lemon juice and simple syrup with egg whites for a creamy texture; the bartenders here double shake the pisco sours for that perfect texture and flavour that has Melburnians returning time and time again. For those who prefer a fruitier tipple there are also berry, mango and passionfruit variations of the classic cocktail.
While the cocktail list has a distinctly South American vibe, the wines and beers on offer stay closer to home, with a few stand-out international contenders. A wide range of spirits on o er mean you can order your favourite or sample a new craft offering.
When it comes to the food offerings there are plenty of Peruvian favourites. Harley House’s signature dish is the ceviche mixto de mercado, which combines local white fish with prawns, squid and octopus, all cured in a citrus-based marinade, colloquially known as tiger’s milk. From there, sample flavours straight from the street with empanadas or nero steamed buns filled with pork belly, sweet potato, aji amarillo mayonnaise and pickled onion criolla.
Have your pick of a variety of share plates and grilled meats from the parrilla – a traditional charcoal grill. The menu features traditional Peruvian and South American flavours, presented in a modern style. If the choice proves too difficult leave it the hands of the chefs as they present you with the best dishes of the day as well as some of their all-time favourites. If you or your friends have dietary requirements then you’re in luck with plenty of gluten and dairy free options as well as vegetarian offerings.
The kitchen is open late so if you find yourself wandering the streets of Melbourne’s CBD after enjoying a show, you can still enjoy chargrilled skewers, fresh salads or any of Harley House’s traditional Peruvian offerings.
It doesn’t stop there for Harley House. The venue also features a gallery space in the alcove where rotating artists showcase their work. It also serves as a space for owner and Archibald winner, Vincent, to hang some of his original works including portraits of his wife, Asher Keddie, and Matt Moran. If you’re lucky you might even be able to sit down with Vincent and ask him about his work.
Since opening in 2015, this South American inspired drinking den has become a favourite in the CBD. Harley House may not be easy to find, but the hunt is well worth it.