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Unmissable Bars & Restaurants: Barcelona, Melbourne & NYC

Our on-the-ground curators spend their precious spare time eating and drinking their way around their destination, so you’re assured of sidestepping the blah or overhyped for a table at the top. Ahead of releasing the LUXE Best Bars and Restaurants Guide 2020, we revisit the unmissable bars and kitchens in BarcelonaMelbourne and New York. Wanna slice of the action? Email sharing your top spots.


Recommended by Lisa Robinson, Resident Curator 

Best bar: Two Schmucks

Why we rate it? An outrageously fresh breath of air, these wild things pour unfiltered pasión into every glass.

So hip it actually hurts, from the freshly nip tucked fit-out to the tattoo splashed ‘schmucks’ themselves and their stick-it-to-the-man ‘tude (hello, brunch at night!?). The scene and crowd veer young, but the cocktails, coffee, comfort eats, and relaxed, albeit tad-pretentious, atmos make it a buzzy still-so-hot-right-now spot in gritty Raval.

Two Schmucks, Carrer de Joaquín Costa, 52, @schmuckordie

credits: Two Schmucks

Best restaurant: Bistrot Levante

Why we rate it? One of Barcelona’s best little secrets right now.

Colourful, perf-plated morsels star on weekly changing, seasonal Med-with-a-Mid-East-twist menus at this tucked-away Barri Gotic bolthole. Subdued and intimate interiors plus a diminutive alleycat situ have kept it firmly off the tourist circuit thus far, plus there’s a natural wine expert leading the front of house vin-charge. Winner, winner.

Bistrot Levante, Placeta de Manuel Ribe,

credits: Bistrot Levante

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Recommended by Eleani Purcell, Resident Curator

Drink: Carlton Wine Room

Why we rate it? Like the gracefully mature woman who’s had some work done but kept it very subtle; Carlton looks fabulous, yet hasn’t lost her character.

A longstanding Melbourne institution, Carlton was taken over by co-owner Andrew Joy and chef John Paul Twomey (ex Marion and Coda, Cutler & Co) who last year breathed new life into it via a gentle reno. A white palette backdrops a menu that’s elevated but stays true to its Euro roots.

Carlton Wine Room, 172-174 Faraday St, Carlton,

The Cellar // credits: The Carlton Wine Room

Eat: Hotel Esplanade aka The Espy

Why we rate it? The folks behind Garden State Hotel know how to make a place that pleases both laidback sundowners and late-night party animals. 

Reclaiming its posi as the St. Kilda go-to, Hotel Esplanade emerged from a big-buck nip/tuck with vintage-meets-mod good looks, vibey music nooks and a rooftop with scorching beach views. Come for the simple mod-Oz plates, stay for sundowners.

Hotel Esplanade, 11 The Esplanade, St Kilda,

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New York

Recommended by Peter J Frank, Resident Curator

Best bar: Broken Shaker

Why we rate it?  The skyline views scream “Manhattan”, which combined with this joint’s immense popularity (come early to avoid the lines) are testament that a good rooftop bar in New York City is still a rare commodity.

On the roof of the new Freehand New York hotel in Flatiron, the drinks — courtesy of the team that opened the original Broken Shaker in Miami — have a decidedly tropical vibe.

Broken Shaker, 23 Lexington Ave,

credits: Freehand Hotels

Best restaurant: Frenchette

Why we rate it? New Yorkers still get misty-eyed at the mention of Pastis, the beloved Meatpacking brasserie that closed in 2014, and they’ve long since ceded their tables at Balthazar to out-of-towners. Thus the rejoicing for this venture from both restaurants’ former chefs.

Team Balthazar (Nasr, Hanson) breathes new life into the red banquettes with the exquisite French bistronomy for which they originally found fame. Think scrambled eggs with escargots, roast duck with frites, and a rich rotisserie lobster with curry butter, all dished up in a simple, faff-free dining room that draws queues round the block. Hellish to get in to, delish once you do. The wine list is mostly natural, biodynamic and organic bottles, many of them from unfamiliar grapes or regions. Don’t be afraid to ask for guidance.

Frenchette, 241 W Broadway,

credits: Frenchette

Hero image: Hotel_Esplanade

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