Say “rooftop bar” these days, and folks will start throwing money at you before you can show them the stairs. Fitzroy’s longstanding Provincial Hotel is doing just that, hoping to capitalise on that sweet, sweet sunshine we pasty Melburnians, and our flocks of summer tourists, crave. The rooftop here on the corner of Brunswick and Johnston streets has managed to stay classy without being aloof, providing a lovely new spot to soak up the inner-north from on high.
Up here, the surrounding redbrick buildings block the view of the city skyline, but create an old Melbourne industrial feel that’s just as nice. There’s comfortable bench seating along the high glass walls, lots of greenery, and old terracotta tiles holding up the bar as a nod to the roof that was. Behind said bar, beards and button-downs are mandatory, and they know how to mix a drink. With an extensive cocktail list and a good selection of spirits, you could almost get away with calling this a cocktail bar.
“You’re Punching Mate” with rhubarb vodka and pickled watermelon is balanced, refreshing and punching well above our expectations. It comes appropriately garnished with an entire fruit bowl and makes you want to drink three more immediately. Their version of a Pina Colada comes with coconut fat-washed rum (#mixology) and is proudly dairy free. While not as viscerally satisfying as the original version, it’s sweet and fresh, and you could toss back a few without overloading on coconut cream. Someone here really knows their American whisky too, with a surprising selection including Willet, E.H Taylor and Koval. Beer on tap stays super safe and commercial, and wine is priced for drinking with everything available by the glass and nothing more than $65 a bottle, except the Moët.
Food is hit-or-miss, with the snacks section better avoided in favour of tried and tested pub classics. We’re happy to report that the Doritos on the “Fitzy” burger are as awesome as your stoner brain imagines. Is the burger on a brioche bun as advertised? No. Is it a damn tasty burger anyway? Yes. Keep it simple and you won’t be disappointed.
On a blustery Thursday, chilled out 90s rap bumps in an evening crowd of pretty young locals trying to decide if the wind is worth it, doing the Melbourne springtime dance of jacket on, jacket off. A sunny Sunday sees a mix of tourists, grown kids showing their parents around, and folks in from the suburbs for a stroll down Brunswick Street all passing the afternoon over conversation and bottles of rosé. A rain shower has most scrambling for the stairs, but some are happy to sit and enjoy the full rainbow arching over Fitzroy, the setting sun lighting up the windows of the commission flats like sheets of gold. It’s a scene that’s hard to fault, and one we’ll be enjoying all summer. See you up there.