When Tracey and Tony Wilson bought this backstreet local a year ago, after running a pub in Yarrawonga for decades, they knew what they wanted to bring to the inner-city. "Customer service you'd find in the country," Tony says. The formula seems to be working as a mixture of boots, suits and locals scatter between the tavern-style front bar, the bistro to the side and a beer garden remarkably absent from many "best" lists. We recommend the tasting board (calamari, pork ribs, meatballs, peppers), best enjoyed al fresco.
69 Cruikshank St, Port Melbourne; 9646 3306; thecricketersarms.com.au
Formerly the Cricket Club Hotel, long-time owner and publican George Bagios didn't spare any expense reopening his venue in June as an upmarket pub with luxurious accommodation. Sit at one of the long honed marble tables in the front bar and order from a menu filled with fresh produce, such as Cone Bay barramundi or Flinders Island lamb. Grab a Cricketers Arms Pale Ale from a beer list that favours craft, then take the lift to the rooftop deck for views of the city skyline and Albert Park.
435 Clarendon St, South Melbourne; 8696 7777; coppersmithhotel.com.au
As the closest pub to the MCG, for many the pilgrimage to the ground starts here - or, more precisely, in the colourful beer garden, where iconic moments in AFL and cricket are painted on the brick walls. A barbecue menu full of simple but cheap burgers ($6) is only available on game days; after the match, no matter who wins, the place will be standing room only.
327 Punt Rd, Richmond; 9428 7471; facebook.com/cricketersarmshotel.richmond
The Cricketers Bar
In 1974 Melbourne didn't have a cricket museum, so when the Cricketers Bar opened, it unofficially became one. Today, historically important bats, blazers and balls surround a huge rectangular bar where public servants like to chat. The menu, including a weekly lunch special, such as wagyu beef cheeks or pan-fried skate wings ($18 including a drink), is cooked by the Windsor Hotel kitchen, and is great value.
Windsor Hotel, 111 Spring St, City; 9633 6170; thehotelwindsor.com.au
Lord Newry Hotel
A long slog from Brunswick Street Oval, the Lord Newry's inclusion is due in part to its standing as one of the oldest and most "successful" teams in the Yarra Pub Cricket Association, which sees venues in the inner-north fight it out on Sundays. It's also a popular venue post game. Locals flock to footpath tables nightly, eating from a menu that is pure traditional pub fare, with steak and eggs and chicken parma the highlights. The interior is classic cosiness, with open fires in the front bar and pool room for when it's cooler.
543 Brunswick St, Fitzroy North; 9481 3931; lordnewryhotel.com.au