It might be a sign of us getting older, but as time goes on – we’ve got less and less patience for the clattering, chaotic noise of a packed bar. A few too many years of tinny, poorly mixed music blasted into our ears has made us long for a sanctuary where we can enjoy a nice glass of wine, have a little sit down, and maybe even a conversation that doesn’t have to be screamed.
An answer to our prayers: tucked away down the charming laneways of Northbridge’s Chinatown, you’ll find an audiophile’s oasis: Astral Weeks. Inspired by the listening bars of Japan and named after the Van Morrison album, the former herbalist’s shop has been fitted out with acoustics at the absolute forefront – walls are dotted with acoustic panels, the ceiling is insulated and the floors are carpeted. All this is to amplify (pardon the pun) the effects of the real star of the show: the hand-built Line Magnetic hi-fi system, mounted with pride of place behind the bar.
Although we own the odd record or two, we can’t claim to be experts by any stretch – but this place sounds good. Not to be dramatic, but it’s a singular experience. As soon as you step inside, you’re struck by the almost breathtaking clarity and warm crispness: a decided contrast to the hustle and bustle of Northbridge. A vast record collection has been compiled from staff and owners’ personal collections, with Astral Weeks’ soundtrack played by both bartenders, owners and visiting DJs.
While the acoustic experience is the guiding principle of the fit-out, a considered, pared-back approach has resulted in an aesthetic that mirrors the thoughtful approach to sound. Nothing feels unnecessary or trendy – it’s easy to imagine the bar becoming part of the furniture of Northbridge in years to come. While there’s a couple of tables outside (at which you can enjoy food from any of the neighbouring restaurants), the bar’s predominantly indoor space also means we predict plenty of cosy winter wines from the considered, curated drinks list (or $2 filter coffees!), watching the laneway through the windows, or enjoying the intimate mezzanine level.
Astral Weeks is open Wednesday to Sunday, from 4:00PM until late, and is located at shop 12/60-66 Roe Street, Northbridge.