It’s Peaky Blinders meets The Great Gatsby in the speakeasy, hidden inside Ballarat’s newest distillery and bar, Grainery Lane. The saloon-style bar and the speakeasy within it are named after the once-busy laneway it sits on, where grain and malt were sold and milled during Ballarat’s gold rush.
Housed in a historic grain house a 1.5-hour drive from Melbourne, the bar features an original bar top from Chicago that spans an entire wall, chandeliers and grand leather couches and furniture. While the interiors were inspired by Ballarat in the 1880s, a 60-seat speakeasy at the back of the building reflects the city in the early 1920s prohibition era.
“The venue’s location is unlike anywhere else,” says owner Brian Taylor. “It’s all about bringing back the glitz and glamour of the gold rush era, while the speakeasy is about having fun and letting your hair down in true prohibition era style.”
On the drinks menu are eight gins and two vodkas, all made on-site from local produce and natural ingredients, including grains, herbs, berries and botanicals. For example, the grapefruit gin uses red grapefruit skin, which gives it its punchy taste.
The spirits are all made in a 400-litre copper still sitting in the middle of the venue, and the venue hopes to soon hold regular ‘make your own gin’ workshops for those looking to customise their own drops.
The drinks menu also includes traditional and unique cocktails, plus five locally brewed beers, wines and other drinks.
Executive Chef Scott Alsop has curated a Southeast Asian and Latin American share-style menu with many of the dishes infused with Grainery Lane spirits – think gin-infused oysters and vodka beetroot. The rest of the menu features items cooked over coals.
Taylor’s favourite drink and dish on the menu? The Gin Martini, which he pairs with either the Sweet Chilli Beef or Kingfish Tiradito.
Taylor, a hospitality pioneer, has also opened Ballarat venues Hop Temple, Roy Hammond and Aunty Jacks, a brewery that produces world-class beer and has won awards against big-name international breweries at the Australian Italian Beer Awards. He wants to do the same in the spirit world with Grainery Lane.
“I often find myself sitting at the amazing mahogany saloon bar, mesmerised, watching the dedicated cocktail bartenders do their thing,” says Taylor. “If I’m not at the saloon bar, you can find me in the speakeasy in a wood-clad corner sitting on one of the leather cigar chairs.”