1. A dark table with a bottle of red wine and two red wine glasses, a fish burger and chips and trout rillette dish with two orange water glasses
    Photograph: Patricia Sofra
  2. People sit at tables inside the pub, while a bartender walks into the room from behind the bar
    Photograph: Patricia Sofra
  3. Trout rillette on a circle of bitter leaves on a floral plate next to a glass of red wine
    Photograph: Patricia Sofra
  4. A white plate piled high with meat and vegetables on a table, with gravy being poured onto the meat
    Photograph: Patricia Sofra
  5. A small bar with a light blue wooden front and a small selection of drinks behind the bar and stacked glasses
    Photograph: Patricia Sofra
  6. The white facade of the multi-level corner building which is home to Marquis of Lorne
    Photograph: Patricia Sofra
  • Bars
  • Fitzroy
  • Recommended

Review

Marquis of Lorne

5 out of 5 stars

This 150-year-old historic jewel is the definition of a neighbourhood legend – inclusive, heartful and convivial with an air of generosity

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Time Out says

In Melbourne’s fast-paced hospo scene, it’s easy to take for granted the local haunts we frequent over the years and have come to know and love. Bright, shiny openings dominate our feeds, and, especially in the food space, there’s always somewhere new and compelling to visit. But some places seem to maintain an indistinguishable allure, bolstered by their persistence to keep things fresh and their loyal patrons happy – and judging by Marquis of Lorne’s consistently packed-out capacity since its 2014 refurbishment, it’s one of them.

In fact, we’re lucky to have even scored a spot on the Sunday arvo we visit – it’s the last dining table, fortuitously made available on the back of a cancelled booking. While it’s been a while since our last lunch here, we know the drill: hearty gastropub fare in a somewhat shabby-chic yet charming space, with a diverse drinks list that’s bound to get us feeling thirsty fast.

We start with a round of Stomping Ground pale ales on the small sunny rooftop. Up here, there’s a separate bar with a dedicated beer geek who gives us the scoop on a new exciting craft brewhouse opening in Richmond: Tasmania’s Fox Friday. We try a tipple (it’s great), before strolling down the creaky stairs to take our lucky place in the ground-floor dining room. The atmosphere is warm and buzzing, with large groups of families, friends and a smattering of cool kids sporting the latest haircuts (fluffy mullets must be trending right now) sharing meals over pints. Portishead’s sultry ‘Glory Box’ lilts through the speakers. 

There’s an elegance to Marquis, in subtle details easy to miss: a candelabra dripping with wax, a pink and red stained glass window in the far corner, and a gilded antique mirror. We’re seated right next to the hearth of a rustic fireplace, kept roaring by a nearby stack of logs. A young waitress swiftly organises our first drinks, and informs us that the pub’s currently rotating 1.5-litre magnums to give locals something bold and intriguing to try. We’re game. Today there’s a risqué bottle of South Australian trebbiano skin-contact wine; an illustration of an ‘au naturale’ half-naked woman swirls a glass on the bottle’s label. It’s got sour pineapple and banana on the nose, and tastes like a cloudy mystery elixir of creamy and stone fruit notes – an eccentric way to commence our meal.

In part due to its Victorian terrace digs and wooden floorboards, Marquis of Lorne looks and feels like that sunny northside sharehouse where everyone congregates at the end of the day, to pretend they know more than they do about wine over feel-good fare cooked by friends. Behind a cage of records that hangs from the ceiling, you can see into the kitchen and it’s loud and fast-paced with daily specials and snacks whizzing out like nobody’s business. The dish of the day scrawled on a chalkboard is the first to pique our interest: braised pork with Yorkshire pudding and seasonal spring vegetables. We’ll have what they’re having, please and thank you very much.

But we begin with a round of starters to warm up. Pumpkin croquettes come out fried in a bubbly tapioca casing, with mint and parsley leaves, red onion strips and a lick of cashew cream. They’re bundles of fun, crisp on the outside and gently creamy in the middle. The halloumi that arrives next on a nest of roquette leaves is just as delightful – a little feisty from a sprinkling of red-hot chilli powder and nigella seeds, but also treacly-rich from the honey. It’s served with a wedge of lemon and more red onion, too. Flippin’ delish. 

Our wines are Timon Mayor’s volcanic pinot noir with a subtly dusty aroma, smoother and softer than velvet in the mouth, and a nebbiolo which is all black fruit, mint and raspberries. You’ve gotta hand it to the kindly Marquis – when it comes to wine, he sure knows how to deliver. It doesn’t take long for the mains to arrive with a top-up of vino. My partner’s Yorkie pudding is the size of a man’s fist and while it’s light, fluffy and perfect for the most part, he finds the bottom a little dense. But everything else is infallible.

The slippery braised pork is saucier than a foreign SBS late-night film, with nicely rendered fat and tasty, tender pull-apart meat. Spring peas and shoots add a verdant crunch to the plate. My huge chicken schnitty is the king of them all, a cook’s masterclass in matters of juiciness and crunch. It’s equally astounding with its salsa verde that buzzes with briny capers, and forkfuls of the apple cider vinegar-soaked slaw – all in all, the sort of dish you crave but rarely get at the sea of pubs elsewhere in this city. 

Gastropubs with great fare can sometimes feel stuffy and devoid of life, while pubs heaving with life too often offer little more than parmas (not that there aren’t some great ones), burgs and tired-looking taps. Marquis of Lorne gloriously seems to rise above both of those categories, offering a stellar atmosphere and great food and drink every time. 

You can sit upstairs with a dart if that’s your fancy or you can bring your four-legged friend outside for a catch-up with mates; everyone’s welcome (kids included) and looked after well. The noble Marquis has been thrumming away happily for years now and we trust it will continue to do so through all seasons.

Feeling frugal? These are the 50 best cheap eats in Melbourne right now.

Details

Address
411 George St
Fitzroy
Melbourne
3065
Opening hours:
Mon-Thu 4pm-late; Fri-Sun noon-late
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