The Empress is back and the old girl is looking good. The Fitzroy North hotel, built in 1873, has reopened under the ownership of restaurateur Guy David, who also has Carlton's Markov.
The hotel was a popular live music venue in the late 1980s but closed in December 2013. Since taking over the lease last July, David has given the hotel an overhaul, sprucing up the front bar and dining room with charcoal grey finishes and retro artwork and removing the room of the former band room. The space will reopen as a beer garden by late March.
David will run the venue as a family pub. He's pushed the ethos literally, employing his sister, Lucy, as head chef. Lucy David has worked at CBD restaurants Coda and Pei Modern, although most recently she has been Rosa Mitchell's right-hand woman at Rosa's Kitchen. She describes the menu as pub food with a new slant: her chicken parma is finished with mozzarella, pecorino and proscuitto, and a pork chop is set against a sticky marinade with green mango salad. There are snacks to share, including chickpea and zucchini fritters and chilli-garlic calamari, alongside pizzas and a well-rounded kids' menu.
It's open Monday to Friday from 3pm and from noon at weekends.
Empress Hotel, 714 Nicholson Street, Fitzroy North, 9486 5005