Deep down underground, beneath the concrete labyrinth at the most corporate end of the Melbourne CBD, you’ll find the city’s newest fun parlour, Bartronica.
The sandwich board on Flinders Lane reads: “Classic Arcade Games. Craft Beer. New York Style Beer Garden. Sonic on Sega and much, much more…” With a hard left, I entered down the stark white, concrete stairwell curious to find the “much, much more…”
The first song I hear is Video Killed The Radio Star.
The first thing that catches my eye is the telephone booth behind the bar with its distinct neon blue light. “Red pill or blue pill?” It can’t be… Yes it is! It’s the telephone booth from the set of the Matrix.
I look around and everything in the room glows and flashes. It’s exactly as you’d expect an old school games arcade to be. 20c slots, pinball machines and racing car simulators dotted around the huge, open space. Concrete floors, exposed beams and drop pendant lamps lining the ceiling. Recycled couches, chairs and coffee tables arranged like little lounge rooms here and there around tabletop and console games.
Have I stepped back in time? Is this the 80’s again?
Bartronica is the brainchild of Joshua Egan, a career TV Director and Entrepreneur.
The dream began when Josh was a 10 year old kid hanging out at Ocean Grove Caravan Park, which was owned and run by his mate’s family.
Tucked away in an old shed behind a roller door was a collection of dust covered arcade machines. The coin doors were open and the boys played for hours on unlimited credits. In fact, one of those machines, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pinball, is now at Bartronica.
Josh went on to build a collection of 50+ arcade games, one of the largest collections in Australia. The games are sourced from around the World, some of the machines in Bartonica still running on American quarters. And the collection will continue to grow as Josh sources more machines via a programme that his hacker friend wrote for his computer. The programme searches classifieds such as Craig’s List in the US and finds second hand arcade games as they go up for sale.
Talking to Josh, it’s hard not to get drawn into his excitement. Intensely passionate about his vision and plans for Bartronica, Josh could talk about the arcade games, the bar and his journey for hours. He’s creating something unique – somewhere cool to take a first date and somewhere fun to hangout with friends; a venue with a private booth for a business meeting over a game of Mario Kart; a museum for his precious collection; a place that will always have something new as machines are rotated and different games come and go; and a bar that serves great drinks.
While chatting in the beer garden I notice and comment on the original street signs – “No Parking”…”Slow”… Josh proudly tells me that we’re standing on an old laneway that used to cut through from Flinders Lane to Flinders St. He points out a sign that says “All Drivers must stop before entering Flinders St. By order Traffic Police”. So quintessentially Melbourne…
Of course Bartronica has a cocktail menu inspired by iconic 80’s culture. The experience wouldn’t be complete without a ‘Kong’ or a ‘Girls on Film’ or a ‘Risky Business’ or a ‘Fatal Attraction’. It’s a great cocktail list with drinks designed by local bartending legend Blake Hall.
Starwood Whisky, banana liqueur & chocolate bitters, with a burnt cinnamon stick and ice shaped like tetris. An interesting twist on a classic old fashioned, great for guys and girls.
Girls on Film
666 Pure Vodka, blueberry & raspberry liqueur, topped with thick white froth and drops of aromatic bitters. Sweet but cleverly balanced, the perfect girly cocktail.
I think I found the “much, much more”.
Open Wed – Sat 4pm – 1am
335 Flinders Ln, Melbourne
“If you never did you should. These things are fun and fun is good.”
― Dr. Seuss