MELBOURNE | Silverlake Social is a Chapel Street bar from the people behind nearby White Oaks Saloon and swaps the Southern-style saloon theme for a Southern Californian one. It’s named after the Los Angeles neighbourhood of Silver Lake, which is an area full of trendy restaurants, cafes, bars and shops. Having been based in Silver Lake during our most recent visit to Los Angeles and falling in love with the area, we were keen to see if Silverlake Social had managed to capture the vibe.
The bar features a wood and exposed brick interior, with a long leather banquette running along one side of the venue providing the seating, along with seats and tables outside. A pool table dominates when you first enter, and various American Beer and sports paraphernalia, along with a big screen behind the bar showing American sports, complete the look. There’s nothing uniquely Southern Californian about the space, but it’s the kind of space that wouldn’t be out of place anywhere in the USA. It certainly wouldn’t look out of place in Silver Lake.
Owners Thomas and Nicholas Welch also own an alchool import business and so have first hand access to some great American alcoholic beverages. There are beers and spirits here that you won’t usually see in Melbourne. There are three cocktails on tap, along with a range of interesting cocktails on the menu that draw upon US influences. The ‘Yellow Smoke’ for example, mixes mezcal, pineapple, and Serrano chilli – very SoCal.
The beer list here is both impressive and disappointing. Impressive, because there are around 25 packaged beers at any given time, along with eight rotating beers on tap. There are some great beers that you don’t usually see in Australia on offer here, including tings like Stone, Clown Shoes, Deschutes, Sierra Nevada, Mad River, Founders and Victory. What we were hoping though was more of a focus on the beers of Southern California, and perhaps some beers that we’ve never seen before in Australia. Brooklyn Brewery, for example is about as far from Southern California as you can get, and their lager is not a beer you commonly find on the West Coast. It might be pedantic to complain when the beer selection is very good, but when you’re saying you’re theme is Southern Californian rather than American, you’ve got to be more committed to it.
Food wise, the menu covers the expected bases and is on theme – burgers, burritos, buffalo wings, mac & cheese, cherry pie, salads and the like. We visited as a group of five and ordered burritos, buffalo wings and corn chips with guacamole. Perhaps it was an off day, and perhaps the other food items are better, but we were quite underwhelmed with the food. The chicken tinga burrito barely contained any chicken and was packed full of rice and not much else. There wasn’t much flavour to it, and no sauces were provided to help rectify this. The corn chips were very oily, and the guacamole was bland and watery. The buffalo wings thankfully had a nice flavour and kick to them.
While we’re disappointed that Silverlake Social doesn’t really fulfil its promise of bringing a Southern California inspired bar to Melbourne, and were also not particularly impressed with the food, the venue does enough right to be a place we’d come back to again for a drink. If you approach Silverlake Social as an ‘American’ bar, with a focus on great drinks, you’ll be better prepared for what you’ll find. It’s all about expectations.
198 Chapel Street
Telephone: (03) 9510 2995
Mon – Fri: 5:00pm to 1:00am
Sat: 12:00pm to 1:00am
Sun: 12:00pm to 11:00pm