St Kilda’s new cocktail bar, the Store Room, was originally one of barber Chris Dunkley’s Men + Co barber shops. After opening two years ago, a back of house area filled with mops and brooms soon became the after-work drinks area for Dunkley and his staff. As more and more barber shops opened in the area, Dunkley decided to go all in and turn the barber shop into a full-time bar.
Behind a first glass door at the entrance to the Store Room is a push button telephone. Dial the number two and a large printed image of a bar opens to reveal a warm room, full of curios. Inside you will find surfboards, a bicycle, old vintage timber ladders, oars from rowing boats and a remote-controlled aeroplane hanging from the roof. Spot an Arne Jacobsen armchair strapped to a concrete wall or, Dunkley’s pick, the vintage Mickey Mouse telephone. The collection is eclectic to say the least.
Dunkley’s business partner Luke Skinner has used his expertise running multi-service construction company PSS Projects to fit the room out with marble basins and benches, and antique mirrors line the walls.
Ideas picked up over several trips to New York City and Los Angeles – particularly in hotels and hotel bars – were the foundation of Dunkley’s concept for the Store Room.
The playlists at the Store Room are as diverse as the décor, says Dunkley.
“Friday nights we might have an ode to the ’70s and ’80s, and a Sunday night you might come in and we’ve got blues and roots playing.”
Manager and head bartender Madeline Loughran looks after the cocktail list. Taking centre stage is the Smoke and Mirrors. Featuring blended and peated whisky, vermouth and bitters, it’s an ode to the classic Rob Roy – but with a smoky twist.“We smoke some wood chips and smoke the inside of the glass while the cocktail is being made,” Dunkley explains. “As the glass is turned back upside down and the cocktail is poured into the glass, it has an aroma of burnt wood … it’s very heavy, intense and strong.
As well as cocktails, you’ll find everything from Four Pillars Gin to Mexican agave-based spirits, New Zealand sauvignon blanc, King Valley prosecco and even a selection of Japanese whisky.
After a recent holiday to Playa del Carmen in Mexico, Dunkley returned with glassware to add to the bar’s collection. “I was in the factory watching them make it,” he says. “When someone picks up the hand-blown glass it creates texture so [the] experience goes beyond just the taste – it’s in the look and the feel as well.”
Food wise, choose from a selection of cheese and charcuterie boards. Or take that cheese and cured meat and toast it between two pieces of bread for a deluxe jaffle.
After a long career cutting hair, Dunkley is glad to add running a bar to his repertoire.
“It’s definitely exciting to know that my skills beyond cutting hair are growing.”
The Store Room
2–12, St Kilda Road, St Kilda
(03) 9529 1396
Thu to Sun 4pm–late