Bar Bambi Is Melbourne’s Newest Party Venue

Instagram / @barbambi_melbourne

Just as I was beginning to think that Melbourne CBD may have lost a little of it’s mojo, I stumbled into Bar Bambi. Six hours and many spicy margs later, my faith was restored.

Bar Bambi is all good vibes, decadent comfort food, beautiful people and live music. It’s fun and flirty on the surface, but beneath the neon-pink lights, the cute bartenders in white jackets and the plates of oozing burratta, is an extremely savvy business.

Opening late last year, Bar Bambi is the brainchild of brothers Nick and Daniel Russian, who are no newbies to opening widely beloved and successful venues. Having formerly owned Eve, a glitzy celebrity nightclub that ran for a decade in Southbank, the Russian’s truly know how to throw a good party.

Instagram / @barbambi_melbourne

Walking into the old Cherry Bar site, I was subconsciously expecting sticky carpet and sleeveless leather vests, but what I got was a glamorous New York-style piano bar; a modern fit-out, with retro touches. I was not mad.

The neon pink lighting, the ripple mirrored domes that house the back bar, the checkered carpet, the white waistcoats, the late-night Italian food… it felt like a venue yoinked straight out of late-night NYC and plonked into AC/DC Lane.

Instagram / @barbambi_melbourne

“We’ve been lucky enough to keep our crowd from previous venues,” Nick Russian tells Thrillist Australia, “and we’ve observed some changes in consumer behaviour since we last owned a venue. It’s no longer about just going to a nightclub, people want to be entertained too.”

“After doing a little bit of research overseas — mostly in Europe and the US — we noticed the success and increase of the hybrid bar; not a restaurant, not a nightclub, but somewhere in between… and that’s what we aimed for with Bar Bambi.”

With the evolution of hospitality in Australia, paired with the fact that we’re just a lot better travelled than we were even a few years ago, people expect more out of a venue. They want somewhere they can eat, drink, dance and meet new people at, especially at late-night hours.

As a lover of the after-dinner party myself, I can say that we were definitely missing this kind of venue in the Melbourne CBD. Most venues, even the late-night ones, close at 1am, which is just that little bit too early if you’re keen for a bit of a party.

But there’s something else about Bar Bambi that makes it stand out: the people.

Although Nick and Daniel are usually pretty hands-on in their venues, they’ve had to be even more so due to the shortage of hospitality staff in Melbourne right now, as well as all the complications that come with running a venue during a pandemic.

Their presence in the venue, really adds to the vibe.

“We’re usually pretty hands one for the first 12-18 months of a new venue,” says Nick.

“In the traditional marketing mix, you know; product, price, placement… the “people” element is often forgotten, but it’s by far the most important. When we’re there, we can set the tone, and that’s crucial.”

The tone: everyone is welcome. Bar Bambi is like being invited to the beautiful people party, minus the exclusivity.

As Nick said above, they have a crowd. People that have been regulars at their previous venues, are coming to Bar Bambi craving a good time, and knowing they’re going to get one. With the boys there themselves, it creates this element of community that is pretty rare in late-night venues and it’s one of the main reasons that their venues are always memorable.

“People are hungry for a good time right now,” Nick laughs, “it’s like we’ve all been locked up in a cage for the past two years and we’re ready to break free!”

Bar Bambi truly has a bit of everything. Yes, there’s the spicy margarita, late-night snack and dance until you’re proper sweaty and drunk part of the evening, but they also have resident piano nights on Thursday nights and Sunday afternoon (as of February).

There’s also an incredible food offering, with head chef Salvatore Giorgio (formerly of Postmistress) serving up Italian classics such as burratta caprese, polpette (Italian meatballs), vodka pasta with spicy sugo and tiramisu cannoli, into the wee hours.

Instagram / @barbambi_melbourne

“You could come in for an early weeknight dinner, an afternoon cocktail and a show, or a late-night boogie.”

It’s what we all need right now.

You can book a table at Bar Bambi here, or keep up with what’s on by following them on Instagram here.

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