On a dizzly evening with cobblestones covered in crunchy red leaves, the sign for the Rose Hotel has that ‘welcome, stranger’ kind of vibe that makes it impossible to resist. Sure, it sounds more British pub than Australian hotel, but thanks to Melbourne's famously recalcitrant weather it works a treat.
Inside, the pub’s interior is exactly what you are expecting - dark brickwork, vintage sports memorabilia, a chalkboard with the day’s specials, and smiley bar staff having a chat to some locals. It’s practiced at being cosy and comfortable and here’s why: this Melbourne gem has graced the corner of Napier Street, Fitzroy for over 130 years.
The charming ‘old Britannia’ style is the result of a recentish makeover, which also gifted the centenarian pub a little extra Melbourne magic – up a flight of stairs is the Harry & Frankie wine bar, the northside arm of the popular Port Melbourne haunt.
The Harry & Frankie cherry atop the Rose Hotel comes courtesy of new owners Tom Hogan and John Tennent, who took over the venue in 2015. Named after John’s eldest son, Harry, and Tom’s youngest daughter, Frankie; the wine bar breathed new energy into a local that was in danger of becoming ‘just another sports pub’.
Upstairs things are a far cry from the pint’n’parma charm below. Harry & Frankie is both a cellar door and a modern wine bar; offering up an impressive 400+ bottles, and a tapas menu to boot. The day you want to visit is Wednesday, when their urban cellar door offers free tastings from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.
You can grab a bottle of the juicy, textural Jade + Jasper Unico Zelo fiano for $25 or splash a fat stack of fifties on something showier. If you want something in between order the hand-pruned, naturally fermented small batch pinot noir from Punch Lance’s vineyard in the Yarra for $75. You can drink in, but be prepared for the $20 corkage.
Melbourne, bless it’s heart, has worked to protect its gorgeous historical pubs despite widespread modernisation; and the Rose is no exception. But it’s modern makeover by Hogan and Tenant has welcomed a whole new demographic, without losing it’s innate pubbiness. This is the place winter night’s are made for.