When the Marquis of Lorne Hotel closed, tears were shed for one of the golden girls of Fitzroy. She was a classic pub where the beer and food was decent and cheap, and the dark red interior was a comforting hideaway for locals. But after being shuttered for over a year, the grand old pub lives again.
New owners Hitchens, Rowley, Vero and Benjamin, a group with serious hospitality chops, have struck a perfect balance between modernising the Marquis and retaining her classic charms. A couple of weeks in, these guys are already greeting regulars by name, and with a beautiful rooftop, great beer selection, and interesting, affordable food, there’s plenty of reasons to be neighbourly.
The main bar has been repainted white and now feels open and breezy, almost begging for a pot-length delay on the path to wherever. They’ve also converted the old dumb waiter into a cured meat locker (they’ll slice some for you any time). The bar stools are stupid comfy. The tap beer list sees Sample Golden next to Coopers. It’s crafty enough without getting nerdy, while the thoughtful and balanced bottle list is full of gems like Lost Coast Amber. They also have an awesome selection of cans.
The food is clean, fresh and beautifully presented by chef Jacob Swain (ex Epocha and Builder’s Arms). Counter meals include a chicken schnitzel, crunchy slaw replacing the traditional pile of flabby chips, and salad on the side. It’s enough on its own, but cheap enough that you can add battery potato cakes for a proper pub-meal experience. You can also get 800g of tender hanger steak for only $55. Add a few excellent sides, and you’ve got a seriously good meal for four.
On the second level, the 1970s-style fitout matches the Hobbit-like architecture. Beautiful stained-glass windows pour light over sturdy, 160-year-old floorboards, giving the whole place a sense of comfort and longevity. Music flows easily from Ben Harper to the Strokes, and the open fire ensures this will be a perfect hideaway from the cold we know must come.
Speaking of winter, the TV downstairs will only ever be turned on for the AFL. In summer it stays off, but you’ll want be up on the bright-and-breezy rooftop anyway. Here, kids and parents mix with hip and hot young things downing tinnies of Foster’s and Mountain Goat Summer Ale served out of a bathtub, house-party style. Aperol spritzes and minty gin punch make for perfect summer drinkin’, too.
Above all, the Marquis of Lorne wants to be part of the community, and it’s everything a local should be without the fluff. In an area well stocked with good pubs, the Marquis is set to take its place among the best.