Restaurateur Jessi Singh hasn't stopped moving since the pandemic hit. Not only has he been doing a roaring takeaway trade and feeding healthcare workers from his restaurants (Daughter in Law, Mrs Singh, Horn Please), he is now opening an elaborate new four-storey pub, club and diner to boot.
Mr Brownie will open on July 2 in what was Fishers Craft Beer Bar, South Melbourne.
The pitch is undoubtedly fun. Five floors of vivid velvet booths, beer gardens, an Indian deli, bistro and speakeasy cocktail lounge and dance bar for private functions with your own DJ.
Singh describes the menu as British curry pub food – "too much oil and too much spice". This might mean samosa burgers, which he likens to an Indian equivalent of our Bunnings snag in bread, featuring a samosa in a sweet bun with mint tamarind chutney. He plans to serve paneer pies and offer eight to 10 curries, serving a choice of two with rice for $15.
The name will likely spur debate, but Singh stands firm in his decision, saying, "I love Australian pubs, and I'm tired of seeing them named for European figures like Queen Elizabeth. This is a pub owned by a brown person and operated by brown people. I think it empowers us, and I'm happy to have people come after me."
It's a positive story, with Singh noting the number of new jobs Mr Brownie will create and the breweries it will support. But it is also a sign of the times. Fishers was less than two years old when it closed, though at least its craft beer focus will live on in the 500-plus collection of beers you can buy to take away or drink in-house for $3 "corkage".
The Mr Brownie Rooftop Hotel will open on July 2 at 343 Clarendon Street, South Melbourne. No phone. Open Thu-Sun 11am-late; bottle shop open daily.