You never need much of a push to head towards Fitzroy, especially if food and drinks are on the agenda. It seems as though every second door leads you to a whisky bar, sandwich spot or your next favourite bowl of noodles. But it means that narrowing down a selection of top spots to get your sip on is a tricky task. We love a challenge here at Melbourne Food & Wine Festival, so let’s press on with the task at hand.
Andrew McConnell’s Gertrude Street pub The Builders Arms (211 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, buildersarmshotel.com.au) has a place in the hearts of many Victorians. The front bar still serves you that classic Australian pub energy, with the restaurant and internal courtyard having just the right amount of polish to make it feel like a special treat. Grab a pot of Carlton Draught and the fish pie and snag a table street side for some of Melbourne’s best people-watching.
A trip to The Everleigh (Level 1/150-156 Gertrude St, theeverleigh.com) is a trip to glamour town. From the moment you walk in you immediately start asking yourself questions like “what year is it?”, “where am I?” and “who turned the brightness down 80 per cent?”. It’s dark, it’s mysterious, it’s filled with every spirit imaginable: it’s perfect. This Melbourne speakeasy is known for doing the classics right – the perfect place to re-acquaint yourself with your Martini order (or learn to love Martinis). If you’re looking to push yourself out of your comfort zone, give the team behind the bar a few of your favourite flavours and they’ll create something especially for you – a real choose-your-own-adventure moment. And the best part? You’ll walk away with a hand-written recipe of your drink to recreate at home. Genius.
Another stop on the McConnell train is wine bar Marion (53 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, marionwine.com.au). Expect to find a rotating list of wines that you’ve seen across your friends’ Instagram stories. Whether you’re dining inside or outside, the energy is Parisian wine bar. Sit back, relax and order a few small plates from a rotating selection of snacks. The team here know their stuff, so ask your server what they’re drinking at the moment. If a glass turns into a bottle and you really feel like pushing the boat out, there are large menu options to turn your snack plates into a full meal.
How can you not love a bar where disco and mortadella come together? Rocco’s Bologna Discoteca (15 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, roccosbologna.com) is a newer addition to this end of Fitzroy and we are here for it. If you arrive on the later side of 5pm you can expect Italian-American classics like spaghetti and meatballs or baked clams along with raw and cured fish dishes alike. Our hot tip? Grab a pot of the Rocco’s Italian Lager or split a bottle of something light and red.
Next stop on our trot around Fitzroy is a seat at the bar at Amarillo (149 Brunswick St, Fitzroy, amarillofitzroy.com.au) for a plate of meat and pickles and a Maidenii vermouth over ice. With a menu full of Spanish pintxos favourites, sit back and make like you’re in San Sebastián for a while before jetting off to our next destination.
Fitzroy is full of pubs that people claim as ‘the best’, but, if you ask Fitzroy locals their favourite spot, Marquis of Lorne (411 George St, Fitzroy, marquisoflorne.com.au) is going to get a frequent shout-out. With three levels, each serving its own specific vibe, you can get a pot of Boatrocker Miss Pinky sour beer at the front bar, a Luke Lambert rosé and a schnitty in the dining room, and finish things up with a Four Pillars Negroni on the rooftop.
Another moody, dimly lit cocktail bar is on our hit list, this time in the form of the Black Pearl (304 Brunswick St, Fitzroy, blackpearlbar.com.au). A Fitzroy institution for almost 20 years, this is a hospitality favourite for knock-offs where the bartenders truly know their stuff. On the weekends you can book a table in The Attic and enjoy your Gimlet with a side of charred corn croquettes or a slice of white anchovy tart.
By Claire Adey
Note: we’re not suggesting any individual person drink this many drinks in a single session. Fitzroy rewards repeat visits; drink responsibly.