411 George St Fitzroy, VIC 3065
|Opening hours||Daily noon-late|
|Features||Outdoor seating, Bar, Licensed|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||03 9417 5001|
I've long liked the Marquis of Lorne, a handsome corner pub, so I've been saddened by its recent history of neglect, licensing glitches and closed doors. But, yay, it's been rejuvenated and is now a happy choice for drinking, eating and hanging out. The rejig is nudge-wink-retro but nicely done. There's a handpainted Foster's sign and a 16-buck steak night but you know you're in Fitzroy 2015 because of the post-Movember moustaches, craft beer, spiced cauliflower and slow-cooked lamb ribs. I'll take it with a pinch of chilli salt, but I'll definitely take it.
The pub's small footprint sprouts exuberantly up three floors, the upper levels accessed via a snaking staircase. On a blazing night it gets hotter the higher you go until there's nothing for it but to grab a beer from the party-central ice bucket and spill gasping onto the roof terrace to watch a killer sunset.
An open kitchen chugs away beside the first-floor dining room sending crisp, juicy chicken schnitzel to tables nearby, baba ghanoush to the bar and burgers to the rooftop. Apart from an overcooked steak, everything was on point when I visited, including the chirpy, well-drilled waiters.
I loved the summer-lovin' tomato salad with oozy stracciatella cheese, and the radicchio with cider dressing carefully drizzled between every leafy layer, and that cauliflower, roasted to the delicious precipice of burnt, then reeled back with yoghurt and toasted almonds. A peachy pavlova with champagne jelly made a relaxed but sumptuous dessert.
A good local makes every visit easy. It welcomes the guy dropping by for a pavement pot and the partying dudes smashing burgers, and the hungry desiring a proper dinner and interesting wine. The Marquis has a smart stab at all this and more: it's simultaneously looking back and forging forward, feeling its way towards a modern vision of a marvellous Melbourne pub.
Score: Three and a half stars (out of five)