The name Alice Rebel's Café & Bar is a bit of a hint really. Walk inside the Melbourne venue and bottleshop and you don’t know what rabbit hole you might tumble down.
Located a short walk from Chelsea station and a salt spray from the beach, the Lewis Carroll-inspired venue first opened its doors in August 2015 with a focus on café essentials. It was coffee, baked eggs, smashed avo, takeaway jams and sauces for which the locals who became regulars first flocked to Alice Rebel’s.
But beer had long played a major role in the lives of the couple behind the café and they’d always planned for it to play a role in the venue’s future. Meg and Matt Anderson connected over craft beer and, like the titular character in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, they wanted others to be a part of their adventures too.
Meg had worked in beer from her very first job with Coopers in her home city of Adelaide. Following that introduction, her career had included roles as a beer rep and running bottleshops, both connecting her with the growing number of local breweries in Melbourne’s southeast as well as the area’s craft beer-loving community. Within that beer community was Matt, initially a regular customer of Meg’s who shared a similar passion for craft beer.
Thus, in September 2018 – now working together and with a full liquor licence in hand – the café became a bar too; walk in today and now Alice Rebel’s food and coffee offering is augmented by an impressive selection of craft beer, spirits and independent wine.
The bar’s six beer taps pour a wide variety of crafty options, with a focus on Victorian breweries. So call in during the day and you can enjoy a large selection of brunch classics (their house-made “Facon” has a particular cult following), or head in later and you can expect stories to be shared over some XPAs rather than a plate of food.
It’s an unusually multifaceted way for a venue to operate, but it’s clearly one that’s proved popular over time, so much so that Meg and Matt soon ran out of space. They solved that problem when, in October 2020, they took over an empty shop in the same plaza as their café and bar to create Alice’s Alcove.
The Alcove is filled with local wines, spirits and beer – there's 400 or so crafty offerings spread across the fridges. And it’s here that you’ll find new releases, rarities and storied Belgian, English and German beers that hold a particularly special place in Meg and Matt’s hearts.
All those beers are available to be enjoyed at bottleshop prices, while the Alcove also offers wines by the glass and what has to be one of the best cocktail lists you’ll find in any plaza in Melbourne. You’ll also find an impressive selection of pastas, produce, sauces and other delicious ingredients for home, including a deli that serves charcuterie boards in the evening.
But the two Alices aren’t just a place to eat and drink delicious things and be merry – over the years, a sense of community has increasingly radiated through the neighbouring spots. In part, that’s thanks to the experiences Meg and Matt have brought to their venues: live music, trivia, drag bingo and wine and beer tastings have become essential elements of locals' weeks.
Taken as a whole, it makes their approach one that’s unique and appealing – particularly given the beachside suburb of Chelsea has little in the way of watering holes and even less to offer when it comes to enjoying a good local beer.
Indeed, so appealing is their ethos and the bright, breezy space they've created that, even if they were located in parts of Melbourne already awash in craft beer they'd still find plenty eager to follow its owners down the rabbit hole. After all, you never know what you might discover.