The Croft Institute

By Mark Trodden | October 20, 2006 1:42 am

If you are a scientist looking for a place to get a drink in Melbourne, you could do worse than visit The Croft Institute. This is a seriously freaky establishment that you get to by going up an alley that runs off another alley.

These are very dodgy surroundings indeed, and you are surprised when you finally enter the bar itself and find it to be a nice-looking, although odd, place. It is odd because, as described on their website

The Croft Institute is hidden up a series of laneways, on a site that was previously vacant for over two decades. Set over three floors, The Croft Institute houses a laboratory on the ground floor, a hospital themed waiting area and bathrooms on the middle level and a 1930’s styled gymnasium on the top floor.

There also used to be a licensed vodka distillery on the first floor, but when I visited there the other night (I only looked at the first floor) the bar staff told me they didn’t make their own vodka any more. Nevertheless, they made me a reasonable martini and served it in a proper glass, not a beaker, as I had half expected.

There are a few nice long, low couches to sit on, but the rest of the seating is on lab stools, pulled up to lab benches. It distinctly reminded me of being in high school chemistry class, because all the equipment is getting on a bit.

It is definitely a quirky place, and it got me thinking a little about other bars that must exist around the world, dedicated to science, or at least with science as a theme. If you know of one, please let us in on it in the comments.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Food and Drink, Travel
  • Ambitwistor

    Not a science-themed bar, but Toronto does have the Ein Stein Cafe and Pub. Somewhere I ran across a place called the H Bar, which may also have been in Toronto, but I can’t find any mention of it now…

  • Tad

    I had a 2-day blitz through Boston last year, and remember stopping by (I think) Einstein’s (just north of MIT). Interesting place and decor. Lots of good beer on tap.

  • Scott H.

    Tad, you sure that wasn’t the Miracle of Science? Kind of matches your description; one of my colleagues likes to have her students’ thesis committee meetings there. Needless to say, those are committees I enjoy serving on!

    Mark, thanks for this posting. I’ve been taking notes on all your Melbourne postings as a guide for things to do during the Texas Symposium this December.

  • Jennifer Ouellette

    The Science Club in Washington, DC, has old school desks and other scavenged bits to elicit that same sort of atmosphere — except it also feels the need to try and be ultra “hip”. Which rather reduces the original charm of bringing in the old schoolroom and lab stuff… Still, worth checking out.

  • Amara

    The Saturn Cafe in Santa Cruz is not a bar but a hippie vegetarian restaurant with a planet theme. Does that count? Its claim-to-fame, besides excellent food, were t-shirts you could buy. Eventually more-than-a-few planetary ring scientists in my old working group at NASA-Ames owned those shirts, which became a kind of status symbol in the Ames Space Sciences building in the 80s and 90s.

  • John Baez

    Hey! I liked the Miracle of Science when I was hanging out at MIT – not as a grad student, I think, but later. I don’t think it existed when I was a grad student there; at the time my favorite hangout was the truly ugly but practical Thirsty Ear pub in the basement of my dorm, now slated for destruction. That’s where I first learned to love Bass ale, under the tutelage of my Irish mathematician friend Eugene Gath.

    And, I’ve greatly enjoyed some dinners at the Saturn Cafe in Santa Cruz when visiting my jazz-violin-playing former-geologist college pal Laurie Tanenbaum there. Not particularly science-themed as I recall, and not a bar, but okay: planets and vegetarian food, a true Northern California experience.

    Let’s see… there’s the Black Hole Bistro at the Perimeter Institute – a very nice sophisticated place, but it’s hard to let your hair down when the bar is actually in the institute where you’re working. The old bar at the old Perimeter Institute building, which used to be a hotel – that was somehow more cozy. Maybe it was the pool table and the out-of-tune piano.

    The Eagle in Cambridge is very beautiful, quaint and cozy, though a bit touristy – and this is where the discovery of DNA was first announced, I believe. Not science-themed, though: most of the pictures concern RAF pilots, as does the old graffiti on the ceiling.

    Bars and cafes are great places for doing mathematical physics, but they don’t need to be science-themed: probably best if they’re not.

  • Blake Stacey

    The burgers at the Miracle of Science are pretty darn good. Them and a beer were a great way to recover from Prof, Kardar’s problem sets in grad stat mech. (Bukowski’s, over on the Boston side, served the same purpose very well, too.)

  • Tad

    Thanks, guys. If “Miracle of Science” is the one right on a sharp corner, so that its shape is like a narrow triangle, then that was it. See? Must have been great beer.

  • Michael D


    I have been staring at the posters in the lifts of the Uni Melb physics building the past week wondering why the name Mark Trodden seemed so familiar….

    Unfortunately, I have been too preoccupied with final assignments, exam preparation and visiting potential honours supervisors that I didn’t go to any of Mark’s seminars!

    I hope you enjoyed your stay in Melbourne and hope the Astro team were a welcoming bunch!


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About Mark Trodden

Mark Trodden holds the Fay R. and Eugene L. Langberg Endowed Chair in Physics and is co-director of the Center for Particle Cosmology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a theoretical physicist working on particle physics and gravity— in particular on the roles they play in the evolution and structure of the universe. When asked for a short phrase to describe his research area, he says he is a particle cosmologist.


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