Mana Bar: Where gin and gamers meet
DOES your idea of a good night out include funky cocktails, video game marathons and superhero-inspired graffiti? If so, Mana Bar is the place for you. Grace Yew shares her experience.
Despite my enthusiasm for fruity booze and video games, I am the world’s worst gamer and an equally appalling drinker. As such, I was unsure what to expect when my friends and I rolled up to the graffitied doors of the Melbourne branch of Mana Bar, a uniquely Aussie enterprise. It’s an enticing premise – cocktails and video games! Plus, its larger Brisbane counterpart has reportedly been very successful.
We reached the little bar at 6pm, so the queue we’d heard so much about was absent. There were five sleek LCD screens connected to an array of consoles for multi-patron gaming. The blue-lit front room provided a visually interesting contrast to the red-lit bar – perhaps a not so subtle nod to this.
The cocktail menus were neatly presented in empty game cases. Each boutique blend, prepared by non-committal but skilled bartenders, cost about $15. At least the drink names were somewhat interesting: my favourites were the Ocarina of Lime (rum and lime) and the Cloud Strife (a sour lime blend), referencing The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy respectively.
Many drinks tasted more like their core ingredients as opposed to anything special. There was the Princess Peach (gin-and-peaches sweetness) and the Mana Potion (citrus and blue Curacao, or “Gatorade with vodka”). The Elixir of Fortitude proved to be a serviceable yet refreshing mojito, while the apple-tinged Asghar Ale was simply reminiscent of regular ginger beer. Choco Island shots were made with Dark Cacao and cognac with a helping of whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. Everything was delectable – but I admit, the Choco Island knocked me out.
The games available were mostly casual fare such as the Mario series and staff favourite, Raskulls. The endearing, vintage, and slightly finicky PacMan station ate through our spare change, so we abandoned it for the nearby XBox 360 – one of the bar’s few types new-gen consoles, with the others being PS3s and Nintendo Wiis.
The bar keeps a selection of single and multiplayer games on rotation. You can ask the staff to change them if you want something lighter than Call of Duty, such as Zelda or Super Smash Bros Brawl. I wanted to try Assassin’s Creed, but was rather preoccupied with my Marvel vs. Capcom 3 opponents, button-mashing their way to victory.
If you want company, other patrons will join you if invited. In the back room, an affable customer playing Red Dead Redemption helped us perform an impressive round on Band Hero. Another chap along with one of my friends tried the joystick-based Winnitron, an arcade machine running classics such as Cephalopods, Nidhogg, and Paper Moon. They seemed to enjoy it, judging from the swearing.
What if you’ve had one drink too many or are just suffering cognac-flavoured queasiness? Well then, the bathroom walls will undoubtedly entertain you, sporting hilarious graffiti. Trekkies will smile at “Live Long and Prosper”; Firefly fans may chuckle at “O Captain, My Captain Tightpants!” But the highlight for me was probably, “My boyfriend said, ‘I love you like Batman loves justice.’ I think he’s the one.”
We capped off the evening with the bar’s fortnightly Trivia Night. By 8pm, the Mana Bar was packed to the brim with contestants – to the point where one of my other friends couldn’t even enter. Everyone was primed for a great time, and with good reason. The prize was an impressively convincing replica of the infamous cake from Portal.
The Trivia Night was easy to jump into, as they usually are, with relatively easy questions. We ended up yelling answers from outside the bar before leaving on a hungry, Avengers-inspired quest for- *SPOILERS* – shawarma.
So is the Mana Bar overrated? Possibly. The ambience is fun, but it’s more economical for console owners to stay home with a beer. Still, the bar is a novelty. It’s more of a cocktail dive than an outright LAN fest, and great for a night out. Speaking as an aberration of the gaming community, I found Mana Bar to be a welcoming hub for gamers of all levels to congregate.
Located at 336 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, the Mana Bar Melbourne is open from 3 – 11 PM, Tuesdays to Sundays with a maximum capacity of approximately 50 people. Menus for drinks and games are available on their website.