Friday nights in October, we’re looking for a little spookiness to go with our after-hours adventures. And as the nights get warmer down here in the Southern hemisphere, we’re definitely staying out until last last call.
Now, Melbourne isn't known for its dark corners, but we heard whisperings of a bar tucked away in a Chinatown alley that's decked out like a haunted mental institution. Want a shot? Take it in a syringe. Care for a straightjacket with your absinthe? Yep, tis' the season to get creeped out, and we figured the Croft Institute would deliver on all fronts.
For a three-story club, the place was hard to find. Down a crowded alley that featured some awesome graffiti, we finally saw a lone red light marking the entrance. Inside, the ground floor was as much a cracked-up laboratory as it was a bar, with glass cabinets full of test tubes, tables with industrial sinks, and windows barricaded with metal bars. With the space jam-packed with fellow teammates, it felt like we'd stumbled on some secret party held at a mad scientist's HQ while he was away for the weekend.
Next challenge: picking our poison (and hoping it wasn’t actually poison). We tried to keep things simple and ordered a cider, but the barman had other ideas, taking off like a mad man and shaking our cocktails as though he were strapped to a car battery. Mixing drinks at Croft isn’t a job; it’s a sport – and we can appreciate the level of effort. The best part was it even tasted like cider, only better.
The weirdness continued throughout the night as we explored the additional floors: red cocktails served in syringes, a wheelchair hanging from the ceiling, and a hospital bed in the Department of Hygiene (i.e. "toilets" to the uninitiated). We didn't want to leave, but we could at least say we'd been committed to the Croft Institute experience - and survived. And as far as surreal outings go, it made our normal Friday nights at the pub feel as played out as a haunted hayride.
Photos courtesy of Shannon Crane.