A fresh and friendly new player takes over a neglected Fitzroy corner
The corner of Brunswick and Johnston Streets in Fitzroy has long been a seedy crossroads in the entertainment district. The big building on the northeast end once held Cape Live, a club so obviously failing you figured it was only still operating out of habit. But after months of vacancy, the spot has been reopened by super-friendly father-and-son team Tom and Tom Tschui as the Stone Hotel.
The most obvious change is a fresh coat of shiny white paint. The corner now looks brighter and more inviting and the warm light glowing through the big glass doors is downright enticing on a cold Fitzroy night. Inside, the space is big, bright, and sparsely furnished; it’s best during the day, when a seat at one of the high tables offers panoramic people watching over the busy intersection.
Upstairs, lower ceilings, less white paint and more exposed brick and old beams make for a warmer space. It’ll be open on weekends with DJs playing rock and indie, and there’s a little rooftop deck, open seven days, that’s got long summer sessions written all over it.
On offer across the bar is a tight list of ten craft beers on tap, lots of cider by the bottle, nine wines by the glass (including two rosés) and a small but high quality selection of spirits. Taps lean steeply in the direction of light and easy drinking with Sample Golden, Mt Goat Steam Ale and Hawker’s Pilsner, one of the better local examples of the style. There’s also Napoleon Cider and Brookvale Union Ginger Beer for the hop-phobic, and bittersweet Holgate Temptress Chocolate Porter as the one nod to the chilly weather.
There’s a big focus on food here, and chef Luke Eckersall (Collingwood Children’s Farm Café, Ladro) isn’t content with your average steaks and parmas. Starters are snacky, beer-drinking fun like salt and vinegar school prawns (although we can’t taste much vinegar) and salty fried olives stuffed with funky taleggio cheese. There are also bacon doughnuts: dense balls of pancetta and spring onion dough rolled in maple syrup and popcorn crumbs (his girlfriend’s idea, Eckersall insists) and served with whipped bay leaf butter. It’s the stuff of Homeric (as in Simpson) fantasy.
The cornflake crumbed chicken burger is another exercise in dude-food brinksmanship with two crisp fried cutlets glued together with bright orange American cheese singles. If it all sounds a bit much, there’s balance here, too. A special of pasta with slow-cooked lamb sees bright goat’s cheese, peas and fresh herbs offsetting the richness of the meat for a spot-on combo of comfort and freshness.
Overall, the Stone is friendly, thoughtful, and loves a bit of rock. In summer, when they can throw open those big doors and start pouring cider and rosé down the throats of thirsty party people by the gallon, we reckon they’ll be packed from noon till 3am.
|Venue name:||The Stone Hotel|
298-300 Brunswick St
|Opening hours:||Mon-Thu 11.30am-1am; Fri, Sat: 11.30am-3am; Sun 11.30am-11pm|