Explore Melbourne's Hidden Laneway Culture at Murmur Piano Bar

By Beau
Beau is the founder of Apollo Social. He recently relocated to Melbourne with his husband and has begun a love affair with the city.
When my brother and his girlfriend visited Melbourne for the first time, I wanted to give them a taste of the city's hidden laneway culture - Murmur Piano Bar turned out to be the perfect choice.

With its hidden laneway entrance, heritage charm, candlelit atmosphere, talented musicians and well-crafted cocktails, Murmur checks all the boxes to impress out-of-towners and locals alike.

We arrived at Murmur after a full day of sightseeing so the group’s energy was dwindling fast. However, after wandering down gritty Warburton Lane and ascending a flight of stairs, we were immediately enchanted by the hidden piano bar and we were not released from its spell until several hours later. 

Entrance to Murmur off Warburton Lane Enter via cobblestone Warburton Lane in the CBD

The heritage-listed building is over 100 years old and has kept its old-fashioned charm. The walls are decorated with retro Italian advertisements and a stunning floor-to-ceiling fresco that looks like it belongs in an Italian renaissance museum. The piano is at the front of the room to the left, surrounded by a bar and seating. The candlelit tables create a warm and intimate atmosphere that envelopes you as soon as you enter.

Food and Drink

The extensive drinks menu features beer, wine and spirits plus there are 2 specialised menus - one for cocktails and one for Scotch whiskey. The selection of cocktails is mouth watering and each one I tried was mixed to perfection. You are in good hands with the bar staff.

There’s no table service, so drinks are ordered and paid for at the bar; however, they will be delivered to your table once they are ready so there is no need to risk missing your requested song while waiting at the bar. 

Food was not available as of our visit, however the website suggests this will change in the future.

Sing us a song you’re the piano man 

The main act of any piano bar is the music, and Murmur does not disappoint. There is a rotating musician each night (check the website for details). The musician playing on the night we attended looked the part with his suit and trilby hat and his soulful voice did justice to everything he sang.

There was a jar next to him into which you could drop your requests and he would do his best to play them. His repertoire was astounding and he even looked up a few songs that he didn’t know on his phone and managed to play them on-the-fly. His talent and life-long passion for music was obvious. 

A melodic piano-based tune from a simpler time seemed appropriate so I dropped our table’s request into the jar - Jessie by Joshua Kadison. When he eventually got to it (there was a constant flow of paper slips into the jar), he gave it his nod of approval by saying it’s a great song that rarely gets requested. It felt a bit like being praised by the teacher in school. He went on to play the sweeping piano chords with melodic lyrics. This song became the theme song of my brother's trip and even now takes me back to that night when I hear it.

Between songs he was sipping from a glass of whiskey and would occasionally ask the bar staff to refill it. Several hours in and he was well and truly liquored up which only added to the intimate feeling of the place because it felt like a singalong with your drunk buddies around the baby grand.

Piano man entertaining guests The piano man played a stream of singalong classics all night

Rainbow Representation

While not a queer bar, there was some LGBTQIA+ representation both behind the bar and amongst the crowd. A lesbian couple was sitting at the front of the room and it was touching to see them putting their arms around each other and getting up to dance when their song was played. It certainly felt like a safe space to take your same-sex partner for a date.

The Verdict

Maybe it was the intimate, candle-lit setting, or the familiar songs ringing in my ears or the great company, but as we stumbled back out onto Warburton Lane at the end of the night, I left with a nostalgic feeling like I was leaving an old friend. I had to remind myself this was the first time I had been there.  As we drove home and the cab worked its way through the throngs of people out on their night time adventures, I peered down each laneway and couldn’t help but wonder what other adventures could be waiting at the end of each of them.