In 2021, Melbourne nearly lost one of its most iconic venues. But, thanks to Tom Rattigan (Lily Blacks, Double Happiness, New Gold Mountain) and Joshua Stevens (New Gold Mountain), Madame Brussels – a former brothel and all-round good time parlour – was resurrected.
Tucked up on the third floor of an unassuming office block and manned by staff in kitschy cute tennis outfits, Madame Brussels is the garden party that never stops. This quintessential Melbourne rooftop bar is a pastel fantasy of pink, green and white, and comes decked out with more Astro-Turf than you can poke a parasol at. Boasting a leafy skyline vista made for scoping out city streets and catching killer sunsets, this is the spot to wow spritz-loving out-of-towners.
No longer helmed by hostess with the mostess, Miss Pearls, the reopened Bourke Street bar has lost a little of its flirtatious charm. The double-entendre-laden menu has been stripped out and replaced with a list that instead nods to the area’s heritage and famous figures.
Sangria has long been synonymous with Madame Brussels, and The Parliamentary Mace (created in honour of the Victorian mace that was lost in the brothel in 1892) ensures this legacy continues. The light, bright, housemade white Sangria is a deft blend of summer fruits, enlivened with a subtle floral fragrance.
Wills’ Summer Fix (named for Tom Wills, a notorious cricket match-fixer and founder of the AFL) is a perfect play of prosecco fizz, ruby grapefruit zing, and a citrus twist, finished with a slosh of vodka. Sip this dreamy pink treat as the sun sets and you’ll feel like you’re melting into the fairyfloss sky.
All cocktails on The Usual Suspects menu are ‘juggable’, so if you’re loving your order, upsize and treat the table (or stick in a straw and guzzle it yourself). A menu of seasonal options rotates as the weather changes, and it goes without saying that classics are available on request too.
Choose from a selection of nibbles, including crowd-pleasing toasties (look out for the famous poached chicken, mayo and chives, accompanied by a pint-sized bottle of Tabasco), $12 truffle fries, and charcuterie boards heroing all-Aussie cheeses and cured meats. If you’re in the mood to stick your pinky fingers out, the Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz caviar with dill creme fraiche, housemade pickles and potato crisps is a must.
While the bar may not have the same polish locals have come to expect from new Melbourne venues, it does offer reliable rooftop service doused in nostalgia. A signature spot to impress tourists, Madame Brussels remains a sky-high stalwart of the city scene.