What makes a pub good is so subjective. Do you like them old school, or do you prefer a tricked-up gastropub? Does pub for you mean pot-and-parma, or are you cool with a glass of pet nat and a fish pie? Do shiny polished floors pass the test, or must it be beer-stained carpet?
For us, it’s pretty simple. We just want good food – whether that’s your classic counter meal or gastro equivalent – with good atmosphere. The pubs we hit differ day-to-day, but these are our most consistent, and this list is by no means definitive.
Again, we’re going to stick to Melbourne’s inner north for this piece. Southside to follow.
(Sorry, but the north really is better.)
We were initially devastated when Andrew McConnell decided to transform the Builders Arms bistro into Ricky & Pinky. Thankfully, the front bar remained as was, and now we’re noticing more and more of the old bistro classics are sneaking their way back onto the menu. Still, it remains (and always will be) a great spot to grab a beer or delicious glass of wine, and at least now we can order dumplings alongside that whipped cod roe.
211 Gertrude St, Fitzroy
Daily, 12pm – 11pm
Arguably the best pub in Melbourne. The MoL has it all – open fire places, inoffensive screens for sport, cosy carpeted ground level, space for dining on the middle and dual rooftops up top, a kickass kitchen and menu, and a really awesome drinks list. Feel like a schnitty and a pint? Go to the MoL. Want oysters and Chablis? Go to the MoL. Whatever you’re craving, you’ll find it at the MoL.
411 George St, Fitzroy
Mon to Thurs, 4pm – 11pm, Fri & Sat, 12pm – 1am, Sun 12pm – 11pm
This pub tips the fancier end of the scale, but with pub-whisperer Sean Donovan (formerly of South Melbourne’s Wayside Inn and Footscray’s Station Hotel) at the helm, it’d be remiss of us to not include it. Split into three sections, the front bar is bright and shiny and perfect for a cold beer and a snack. Behind are two distinct dining sections, one more atrium-style with lots of greenery, and another more akin to a hunting lodge, with navy walls and tartan print. A wood-fired barbecue is the kitchen’s pride and joy, so consider that when ordering.
166 Johnston St, Fitzroy
Daily, 12pm – late
The exterior of this pub hasn’t changed much since it was established in 1854. The food and drink, however, has changed considerably, particularly since late 2014 when Iain Ling, former general manager at MoVida Aqui, took over. It still feels very much like a pub, and, like the MoL, you can still get a schnitty and a pot, but you might find yourself opting instead for crumpets with smoked mackeral pate, cucumber and tobiko and a glass of Riesling. The Lincoln often hosts guest chefs for one-off dinners or day parties too, so it’s a good one to keep on your radar.
91 Cardigan St, Carlton
Sun to Thurs, 12pm – 11pm, Fri & Sat, 12pm – 12am
There’s always something going on at the Rochey, whether that’s Tuesday trivia or DJs and live music on weekends. So if you want a lively, happening pub, this is your best bet. A quiet drink is possible if you go early (either in the day or in the week) and you should, whatever your jam. There’s a reason why we hold so many of our (smaller) events here.
202 Johnston St, Fitzroy
Mon to Thurs, 2pm – late, Fri & Sat, 12pm – 3am, Sun 12pm -11pm
The Napier goes in and out of fashion, for us. Personally, we prefer it in winter, where the fire places and general cosiness can really shine. But whatever the season, the one consistent drawcard of the Napier is its parmas – especially with smoked roo instead of ham. Because, straya. The old Fitzroy Lions memorabilia in the front room tugs at the heart strings, too, plus the upstairs art gallery is worth a peek.
210 Napier St, Fitzroy
Mon-Thu 3-11pm; Fri-Sat 1pm-1am; Sun 1-11pm
A classic. Food and drinks are more than decent, the beer garden is epic so it’s perfect for summer drinking, and inside is super cosy, so it’s really an all-year-round spot. It’s where we go when we want a pub that feels like a pub.
293 Fitzroy St, Fitzroy
Mon 3pm – 10pm, Tues 3pm – 11pm, Wed to Sat 12pm – 11pm, Sun 12pm – 10pm
This little gem is difficult to define. The exterior and front room hide a warren of courtyards and rooftops with views of Collingwood, and while aesthetically it looks like the pubbiest of pubs, the fact that half the menu is vego/vegan is a clear indicator that this is no ordinary drinking hole. Within a group of people there will almost definitely be a range of dietary requirements… at the Fox, every single one of you will get a good feed.
351 Wellington St, Collingwood
Mon to Thurs, 3pm – late, Fri to Sun 12pm to late