Pub Review Tour: Tuesday in Fitzroy

Tramway Hotel, 165 Rae St, Fitzroy North

Underground music. Likely a Melbournian band from the 1980’s. One punter inside, one outside at the row of three tables on Church Street near the roundabout. The young fella out at a table appears from my spot by the fireplace to have an Andalusian dancing horse tattooed on his skull. Opposite me is a macramé wall hanging, and I feel as if I’ve been taken hostage by the horrific 70’s. At the centre of the Tramway is its triangular bar.


I order a Young Henry’s Pale Ale which I find safe if unspectacular. It’s a mild afternoon so I move outside into darkening street. The Andalusian dancing horse has galloped off into his evening. Bikes outnumber cars on Rae Street and I find this reassuring. Most folk sport beanies. The upcoming gigs blackboard announces Acid Country broadcasting live this Thursday on PBS 106.7FM. Their website promises “an intimate afternoon of music, radio and community”.


Royal Oak Hotel, 442 Nicholson St, Fitzroy North

In the world of pub names is this the equivalent of John or Mary?


Here’s another fire and candles. There seems to be a distinctive inner-city intimacy at work in Fitzroy North. I can’t recall going into an Adelaide pub and finding lit candles. I like it. The Beatles are playing. My Hargreaves Hill Pale Ale is curious.


Apart from me (obviously) there are three blokes in the front bar talking footy. They speak of the Scott brothers. One chap is theorising that the Geelong coach, Chris Scott, might be lucky to keep his job. It seems unlikely given that his team is top by some distance.


I see an Escher print on the wall, murky books above my head and a tram zings past. A bowls scoreboard sits nearby. It’s quiz night and a staff member asks me if I’m here with a team. I shake my head. Scotland’s finest, The Proclaimers come on and I smile to myself. Indeed, Adelaide is 500 miles away. Having run The Tan earlier today (for the first time) which is a lap of Melbourne’s Botanic Gardens I think these lyrics true-

But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walks a thousand miles
To fall down at your door


I look up and there’s an upturned wooden surf boat over pool table. I leave.


Suddenly, suburban floodlights. WT Peterson oval. Footy training over by the grandstand. Naked trees watching silently by me. Just in front on the forward flank: man, dog, tennis ball.


Lord Newry, 543 Brunswick St, Fitzroy North


First port of call in this boozer is the gents. There are astonishing quantities of graffiti on every surface. I rush. Don’t dry my hands.


I order a Four Pines Pale Ale. Some Glaswegians in the back bar are talking football. In the front bar’s a muted glow, like grandma’s lounge room if she loved orange light shades and early disco music.


I detect a nautical theme because of the turgid and, I suspect, ironic prints of British ships. I think of the postcolonial perspective and associated ideas about imperialism, but only briefly.


I look up at the ceiling which has been stained yelpy yellow by a million Ardath and Black and White darts. And then I think about Sir Walter Raleigh who introduced smoking to Britain and I’m back to postcolonialism, but only briefly.


I note that there’s only five items on the Specials menu board. I think this the maximum allowable number because any more and I’d question just how special those dishes might be. Wouldn’t you?


Royal Derby, 446 Brunswick St, Fitzroy


In the men’s the exhaust fan is whirling like the propeller of the Indianapolis but without Quint’s sharks. It’s so noisy I fear the whole building might take off.


The Kings of Leon are playing and I find them restorative at this point if not generally. I keep with my broad ale theme and buy a Stone and Wood Pacific Ale. There’s a table tennis table in a dedicated room although no-one’s using it, and it would be difficult for me to play by myself.


Over in the betting corner a man is having trouble with his eyes and these go from menacing and mean to glazed and then incapable of focus. He leaves. It’s the only pub in which I hear no footy talk.


The Rose, 406 Napier St, Fitzroy


Happily, I walk in and hear blokes talking footy around a central rectangular bar. There’s a big dog by a table. Warm chat everywhere. Exotic beers abound, but also Coopers which I purchase.


With exposed bricks, and beautiful and enveloping light this is suburban joy. It’s the standout on my brief tour. India and New Zealand begin their World Cup semi-final and I speak with an Englishman about this fixture and our upcoming clash. We agree that the bowlers might dictate the result and Mitchell Stark could be the difference.


I order a burger. It’s a treat. Some young lads near me talk of commercial airline seat configurations on flights into and out of the Western Australian mines. They appear knowledgeable. As I leave, they’ve turned to the bright prospects of the Brisbane Lions who, of course, used to be Fitzroy.


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About Mickey Randall

No, instead I get out my Volleys, each with the inescapable hole, just by the little toe. What if someone bought a pair of Volleys and they didn’t develop these holes? The absence of holes would itself make a psychological hole.


  1. Well played, Mickey.
    South Australia should be damn proud of you.

    Little know fact: Tramways was the last pub at which I ever encountered beer being poured from a pluto gun.
    As a PBS subscriber, I can confirm that Acid Country (hosted by David Hird, who once attended an Almanac launch at the Clyde Hotel) is a damn fine radio show.

  2. Thanks Smokie. Ahh, the pluto gun and the miracle box. All potent symbols from my (and I’m quite sure your) youth. Even the terminolgy holds a certain wide (bleary) eyed wonder.

    I find myself increasingly drawn to community radio and Radio Adelaide and Three D Radio back in Adelaide have some great programs. An old mate I played footy with at Unley hosts Thursday’s breakfast radio show on Three D called The Sound of Museli the title of which amuses me way more than it should.

  3. Rick Kane says

    A little deeper into North Fitzroy and you would’ve been at The Empress and the Railway. Two pubs I can vouch for with thumbs up (if this was the early 90s). Speaking of which, way back then the Lord Newry was well known for, in no particular order, best pub burgers in the area, best pool table and best jukebox. Yes, I said heaven.

    No one stops by the Royal Derby mate, c’mon you’re sounding like a yokel from Radelaide.

    As with Smokie’s comment, Melbourne has two main community radio stations, Triple R and PBS. Both have excellent long running country music shows. Acid Country and Twang. I lean to Twang but Acid Country is pretty good too.

    Carry on.

  4. Good on you Mickey.

    Those pubs have changed over the years, as has the area. I have nice memories of all of those, though frequent none any more.

    Enjoy your time here.

    Rick you have made a serious error in your reply. The original, the main, community radio station is 3CR. As you’d note CR is Community Radio,


  5. Thanks Rick. Time permitting I’ll get to the Empress and the Railway. Good tip. Can’t imagine the Royal Derby has earnt a return visit.

    But seriously, Fitzroy is a fantastic suburb with great history, architecture and culture. I’m hooked.

  6. Thanks Glen. I’m enjoying a conference, some Fitzroy pubs, being out and about and hopefully some footy too.

  7. Your comment about the impossibility of solo table tennis reminded me of a story (apocryphal?) about an Irish golf commentator back in the 70’s. Christy O’Connor (Snr I think – before Jnr’s time – now there’s a question great sporting Snr/Jnr’s – beyond Bunton and Ablett?) was colloquially known as “Christy O’Connor himself”. That got shortened to “himself is having a fine round today”. Until a gloomy day when the commentator was trying to make out the figures in the mist “who’s that out there playing with himself today?”
    Amuses me way more than it should.

  8. That’s a good yarn PB. Right up there with the words of the late, great Whispering Ted Lowe: ‘And for those of you who are watching in black and white, the pink is next to the green.’

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