There are few places I’ve come across in Melbourne that offer the same sense of occasion as the Lui Bar at the Rialto does.
Entrance is via a small, non-descript laneway, and this, combined with the smiling, headset-wearing hostess lends a slight private-club feeling of exclusivity to the whole thing.
Her keen eye quickly assesses our attire and with a few quick words fired off to unseen ears, we know we’ve passed, despite my idea of high fashion being more Cue than Chanel.
We are ushered into a waiting lift, the black and silver low-lit interior only adding to the anticipation. In a reflex action, we both look for the button for floor 55, but alas, the numbers only go as high as 54. Unseen hands operate the secret mechanism to send us to our destination, and mere moments later we’ve arrived.
The handsome waiter who welcomes us strikes the perfect balance between hipster-cool and formal deference as he ushers us to a secluded nook complete with two elegant armchairs.
We settle in, with quenching our thirst the first priority. After much deliberation, Max decides upon a German beer and I opt for the intriguingly named ‘Aviation’ cocktail, hopeful that any reference to rocket fuel is purely ironic. To accompany the drinks, we order the rather boringly named ‘nuts and olives platter’.
Formalities taken care of, we are now free to relax and take in the exceptional city views. Max delights in identifying the many buildings (his sense of geography far superior to mine) and we even spot an indoor garden and swimming pool halfway up a high-rise.
We’re interrupted briefly by the arrival of our drinks and the pleasant addition of a tiny canapé each; cured trout belly on a wafer-thin crostini topped with watercress. Delicious!
The rather bland menu-description of our snacks is quickly forgotten as we taste the delectable honey crusted peanuts and spice-dusted macadaemias. Lightly marinated green and black olives provide the perfect balance to our aperitif.
We talk of Paris, of our careers, of finished novels and how we’d spend a lottery win. And, high above the city, with the lights twinkling enchantingly, it all seems incredibly possible.
It’s just that kind of place.