Pub Of The Week: Tony Leonard reviews Fitzroy Town Hall
Fitzroy Town Hall Hotel
Where? 166 Johnston Street, Fitzroy.
When? July 16, 2021.
The Fitzroy Town Hall Hotel (FTHH) is the absolute acme of achieving the balancing act of high end pub food.
The public bar, all polished timber and brick greets you when entering from Johnston Street, with price points to suit, but remaining staunchly a place to meet, congregate, and enjoy what is the DNA of pub life in Melbourne.
It splits into two beyond that – a darkish bistro to the left, full table service, fireplace going 15 to the dozen, or the bright and airy atrium to the right. For functions there is a beautiful area on the first floor, with a smaller, subterraneous private lounge for a smaller gathering.
There is also a small, slightly elevated area in Napier (just around the corner off Johnston) if having one outside appeals; seats around 15.
The menus showcase the outstanding cooking , while the bistro areas ramp up the food and drink to a higher level.
This is the 3rd time I have reviewed this wonderful establishment (pub of the year 2016) over the past 12 years and in many respects remains steadfastly in my opinion, in Melbourne’s top 5 pubs.
Simply put, the FTHH works on every level.
It is the simple things that the FTHH does that keeps it ahead of the pack.
Wonderful draught beer, choice of commercial and craft has a pure, unadulterated taste. The table service in the bistros provides a couple of pieces of sourdough with butter, along with water brought to you as a matter of course while pondering the menu.
Wines are sourced far and wide, with prices to match, but an excellent Riesling, KIlkannon, is priced at $12pg/60 btle.
The pub burger, a staple of all establishments, starts at $20; the Steak Sanga is $24. Old fashioned entree, Prawn Cocktail w/spicy Marie Rose dressing is $20, heirloom tomato tart, fior de latte, salsa.
Verde is $22.
Steaks are the specialty, all cooked on Redgum Wood, all sourced through O’connors in Gippsland, one of the big hitters in Australian beef. Having a special family gathering and have $220 to splash? 1.4kgs Cote De Boeuf, fully plated. Go hard.
The average prices are;
- Entrees – $20
- Mains – $35
- Dessert – $16
- Qld Tiger prawns, garlic butter, lemon. $12.5/ea. This is a treat and yes they are per serve. A massive, meaty prawn, grilled to perfection with a smoky flavour supporting, it is a wonderful start,
- Fish and chips. $38. Two large, one smaller, fillet of Rockling, batter crisp and flavoursome, french fries made on premise with a perfect green salad to support
- Bavette, 220g, mustard/cabbage remoulade, fries, bearnaise, $38. Cooked on redgum wood BBQ, this is a most flavoursome cut, with a rich bearnaise the choice of sauce. (Brilliant pepper the other). Very good pub eating.
The FTHH gets the balance between traditional and high end beautifully. For sure it does a better level of pub food; the equal, if not better than any presented in a pub in Melbourne.
But the fact is that the wonderful front bar with some outstanding value for money counter meals given the quality coupled with outstanding draught beer, at its core this pub remains a place of community and comfort.
As remarked earlier, the FTHH was the Debortoli Pub of the year in 2016, but the owner/operator Sean Donovan has been similarly recognised at the Station, Footscray, and Wayside Inn over the past 15 years.
And to me, it isn’t just in the food, (as good as it is), it is capturing the essence of a great Melbourne pub.
Longevity in the business confirms success: the Fitzroy Town Hall Hotel steadfastly remains one of our finest.