Trouble in Dreams

Hidden against the side of a Footscray pie shop is a small corridor leading to an unexpected find.

“This was formerly a VCR repair and bridal dress alterations shop,” laughs Chad Parkill, the majority owner of Trouble In Dreams. “But as soon as I saw the space I knew exactly what we could do to turn it into a speakeasy-style bar.”

However, Chad’s vision for a dimly lit, romantic cocktail bar got off to a rocky start.

“We were scheduled to have our first in-house service in March 2020. That was a few days before the lockdown restrictions came in,” Chad recalls. “We were so close; it was absolutely heartbreaking at that time. Fortunately, we were able to pivot to deliver cocktails. So in a way we sort of started as a cocktail delivery service.”

Chad shuttled weekly cocktails to people’s homes, with special packages created in collaboration with his downstairs neighbour Pie Thief. “We might add a bottle of wine, a couple of nice bubbles, Tim Tam cheesecake and some Irish cocktails. It was fun but none of it was planned.”

Now that Trouble In Dreams is properly open for business, customers who can find the semi-concealed entry are treated to a fresh and original update to the speakeasy concept.

Softly lit, opulently fitted out and dark, it’s a world away from the outside hubbub.

When you’re inside, pay attention to the artwork on the walls by local artist Jess Wilson.

“She is such a genius!” Chad gushes. “Her brief was essentially ‘surrealist boozy tarot’. Half an hour after our meeting, she came back with all three works fully drafted and it only required a few tweaks.”

As for the name ‘Trouble in Dreams’, it comes from an album by Destroyer.

“I was listening to Trouble In Dreams a lot when I was travelling around Spain,” Chad says. “It triggers this nostalgic, reflective response in me. I guess I want the bar to generate that same kind of emotional response for people who visit. Plus it’s a good kind of enigmatic name for a bar.”

When it comes to the drinks menu, Chad never fails to impress with his list of high-quality original and classic cocktails. He goes to a great deal of effort to source interesting things for people to drink that you can’t find in an average bar.

“It feels like every bar needs an espresso martini on the menu but I didn’t want to trot out the same old thing. So I started experimenting…” he explains. “Footscray has a massive Vietnamese community and I wanted to pay homage to that aspect of Footscray history. So my version of the espresso martini is a sophisticated play on Vietnamese coffee, with a condensed milk meringue that is blowtorched right in front of you before serving. The caramelised sugar on top of the meringue adds a slightly bitter note which helps cut through the sweetness, while torching it at the table means you get this incredible aroma that you’d miss if we did it at the bar. It’s our bestseller by a mile.”

His passion for being a bar owner goes beyond making great drinks and he values his relationships with his customers above all else.

“It’s nice to be told ‘this is the best espresso martini I’ve ever tasted’. But service is the most important thing for us. We have a very particular style of service, which I like to think of as attentive and detail-focused, while keeping things relaxed.”

“We’re here to provide people with a good time. It’s far more meaningful as a bar owner to see that I’d had an impact on someone’s life, in a really positive way. The connections you forge, the way that people hold you in their hearts. That’s what gets me out of bed.” ​​​​​​

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