On 23 December 2016, I was wondering around to find a potential watering hole. Not knowing too much about the area since my teens, I was very uncertain to how or where this night would end up. A few days earlier while doing my grocery shopping I noticed that there was a bar that seemed like it had a great vibe with lots of people chatting and drinking and thought to myself that I should check it out.
When Friday came around I walked up Hall Street, Moonee Ponds to that bar. While walking I had passed a small bar with retro music playing and people dressed in Hawaiian shirts. Thought that it actually seemed like a pretty cool place to be, however everyone was dressed up, so I figured it was a private function. Crossing the street to what was thought to be quite a happening place to be, I ordered myself a beer and sat down by the window as it was the only seat really left for someone who was out solo. It was nice as I got the breeze coming off Hall Street rather than the air of a congested venue. I decided that this bar was not for me and to go on the hunt for another bar to try out. Found one around the corner on Mt. Alexander Road while googling other placed and decided that I was going to finish my beer then start making the journey over.
As I left, I passed that bar across the road with the retro music and Hawaiian shirts, I noticed that the crowd had changed slightly as there were some other people in there. I figured that it may not have been a private function and to give it a shot, plus they serve Matso’s Mango beer - never tried it and thought it would be exotic.
Walking in I noticed people are dancing and I take a sit at a lower levelled marble bar as I am greeted by a wonderful lady who has a wonderful smile. I order a Mango beer and am given a bottle of water with a glass to keep hydrated. As I didn’t really know anybody at this point I decided to remain at the bar - so I did the boppy chair dance for most of the night. While doing my little dance, I met some people, did some banter and had some drinks with them.
It was getting late, and I was getting very happy - the gentleman I was speaking to said he lived my way and offered to walk me part of the way. This is where I knew I was in the right place… as I was about to leave, the lovely lady behind the bar lent over and asked how I was getting home, when I explained I wasn’t too far and was going to walk she reached over to pick up their business card and asked me to call her when I got home to make sure I was OK!
This bar is called Mango Lounge Bar.
Mango venue photo. Butter Trio play live jazz, Sunday 11 June 2017.
Mango Lounge Bar is a simple retro interior designed compact venue, and unlike most bars, this one is very unique in the level of care and service to their patrons, I would personally say that they are the Mecca of Hospitality and Customer Service. Founded and built by the owner Dan Semkiw, this lovely bar is a great place for many reasons, whether that is to catch up with an old friend on a chilled out school night or to have a boogie to a wide variety of DJs and live musical tastes on the weekends.
Like every cocktail bar, their drinks menu consists of the old time classics (even some with a Mango twist to the original ingredients) and a great selection of ‘Mango Originals’ which have been created by staff members old and new. There is something for the sweet and the savoury tooth and those who can’t figure out which one they are. However, it doesn’t stop there, they have a great range of beers and wines - but you don’t have to fear when trying to figure out what you want because the bar staff have great knowledge and are always there to lend you the decisive hand that you need!
Giselle and the delicious Ronin cocktail (perfect for the sweet tooth).
While on the topic of the bar staff, they are always there to help (even in the messiest of times with offerings of water and help to get home safely) and great with conversation. If you go there regularly, you then become apart of the tight-nit community of staff and regulars.
You can feel right at home with this community!
The Mango 2017 Christmas Party at Jacks Satay Bar.
The owner and founder, Dan, has since become a good friend and supporter of Lilly Pilly Arts. While being a lover of the country and great outdoors, he is the jack of all trades and is constantly working on new projects here and there, utilising his Degree in Engineering - Computer Systems. I have reached out to Dan to find out more about his place in the community with Mango and his past, present and future projects.
The architectural design of the bar is simple, however very retro - what inspired this design? Was it a tough project to manifest into reality?
Melbourne is the home of the Australian small bar movement and iconic Melbourne bars such as Troika & Sades helped inspire the concept overall. Its a minimalistic design but extremely unique and detailed in parts so time consuming to get right.
Being in the hospitality industry for almost 17 years as an owner - have you experienced many challenges? What has been your biggest challenge and achievement so far?
Yes, almost 17 years as an owner operator and 20+ years in the industry overall. We've had great reviews including a full Epicure page some 10 years ago but getting the doors open was probably the biggest challenge and achievement. I studied engineering and didn't have a background in business. On reflection, mango was opened on a shoe string budget and wouldn't have been possible without the support of family.
Most cocktail bars have a signature cocktail - what would say the Mango signature cocktail is?
Mango Daiquiri. Blended but simply divine when mango's are fresh.
Mango has a lot of history - what have been some of the highlights?
Yes, a lot of history, if only the walls could talk! There have been some amazing nights that stand out but meeting an amazing group of friends and my wife is definitely the highlight.
How do you think Mango fits into the community?
Mango is a no-pretence cosy environment suitable for cocktails with friends, a beer after work or a coffee with mum. So its accessible to all and a place where friendships are made.
Are there any future projects or plans for Mango in the future?
Mango will be 17 in May and Moonee Ponds is undergoing major change. It's difficult to say how things may change but mango is driven by passion so the concept will inevitably stay the same.
On that night, when I walked into Mango Lounge Bar, I knew I was in the right place - since then I have made so many beautiful friendships and worked with Dan to photograph events, cocktails and the venue space over the past year and a bit. I have Dan to thank for bring me back into the photography game and continuing to progress the Lilly Pilly business further as time progressed.
Mango Lounge Bar staff and regulars are really one big family, with all kinds of different personalities combining into one funny little puddle. They make my heart explode with joy!