On a Sunday evening the Marquis of Lorne is, as usual, pumping. This is ground zero for Fitzroy hipster pubdom, and Fitzroy is ground zero for said scene in all Australia – if not the world. To be at the epicentre here is no mean feat, and after years on top, the MoL still holds its position as master and commander.
Rather than the standard sprawling pub layout, the Marquis is vertical, with the boisterous public bar on the ground floor, the homey dining room and kitchen up the stairs and above that a small rooftop terrace with its own bar that serves easy-going craft tinnies and a couple of simple cocktails. Drinking up here feels like being on the deck of a boozy ship sailing the seas of Fitzroy. Yo-ho, me hearties, we say!
The taps and tinnies here are not as wide ranging or ambitious as they once were, but the offering is still solid, with things like Mill Watermelon Hibiscus and Moon Dog amber doing exactly what you want without any surprises. It’s a reflection of how the Marquis has evolved over the years; less cutting-edge craft beer venue and more just a rocking good pub for Fitzroy’s 30-ish crowd, taking its rightful place among the neighbourhood’s long-standing favourites like the Standard, the Napier and the Rainbow, but in a way that feels less like a legacy act and more like a platinum album peak.
Apart from beer, there are cocktails – the ones you want at a pub like Aperol Spritzes, Espresso Martinis and Margaritas – and a list of approachable but high quality wines like Mac Forbes Chardonnay and Save Our Souls Pinot Noir. Glasses are all $12-$14 and the most expensive bottle on the list is a grand cru Chablis for $145. Tick, tick, tick.
On the food menu the classics are all still here like the schnitzel and the rockling burger, and their awesome potato cakes can still be had for a mere $10. Trout rillette, served with bitter leaves of endive instead of bread so it won’t ruin your din-dins is smoky, salty and generously portioned if not a touch lacking in complexity. For $16, we’re not complaining. Eating out is getting expensive, even in pubs, but these guys still offer great quality for reasonable prices with mains ranging from $26-$36. A special of flank steak with marrow and black garlic butter sounds more interesting than it is, but it’s tasty and filling and cheaper than the sirloin on the regular menu.
For a while pre-pandemic, the Marquis suffered an unfortunately common affliction among the pubs and cafes of Fitzroy – that too cool, detached service that often casts a pall over an otherwise great venue. Thankfully, it seems cured. Service is now friendly and efficient, happy to have a laugh or just get it done as required, but never the over-it teenager act of days past. On a recent visit the bartenders even seemed like they were having (gasp!) fun. Let’s hope they don’t get their cool cards revoked, but we’re all for a pub being a good time for everyone.
The Marquis was the first venue in what would turn out to be a small empire of revived classic pubs that now includes the Mount Erica Hotel, Union House and the just-opened Royal Oak in Fitzroy North, all excellent. While the food and the beer might not be quite up to the same standard as it once was, the service is better and the offering is exactly what the neighbourhood wants and needs. In a city brimming within awesome pubs, the Marquis of Lorne is still right up there. We bow to the lord of the manor.