Thursday, February 5

Footloose in Fitzroy (and South Melbourne)

Is there anything better than a couple of days at the Australian Open? A big thanks to Tourism Victoria for inviting Beer Airways to see Murray and Kyrgios in action at Rod Laver Arena (the great man was in the house). Away from the tennis I discovered some new-ish Melbourne gems including the Coppersmith Hotel (pictured below) – my new home away from home in South Melbourne. George Bagios and his team really put out the red carpet. With 15 spotless guestrooms, 18 craft beers on tap downstairs and a smart, modern bistro which has won high praise from The Australian’s John Lethlean, this sleek corner pub is the business. For solo travellers like myself Coppersmith has a well-priced bar menu – try the celebrated fish pie ($26) or traditional Wiener Schnitzel with anchovies, piquillo, egg and olive ($29). Located on Clarendon Street, the boutique property provides easy access to the city, the Australian Grand Prix and the innocent delights of St Kilda. Midweek rates from $220 a night. The following night I joined Fitzroy local and wine guru Dan Sims for a walking tour of Gertrude and Smith streets – one of Melbourne’s happening culinary enclaves. First stop was the Builders Arms, which reminded me of some of Dublin’s funkier boozers, but I was soon smitten by the hot southern fried chicken across the road at Belles. As it says on the menu the chicken is really f**kin’ hot ($16) but totally delicious. Dan washed his down with a Melbourne Bitter, but that was one step too far for me. I settled for a glass of organic Victorian Lambrusco. Interesting! A few minutes later we were tucking into a plate of spicy wagyu tartare ($16) at Lee Ho Fook, a moody little Chinese joint on Smith Street. I must come back for the twice-cooked free-range pork belly and a glass of Dodgy Chinese Dr Henderson (a type of prune tonic apparently). Sometime later we headed back onto Smith Street. Saint Crispin, Habitat, Los Barbudos and the Robbie Burns are all nearby. As Dan says this part of Fitzroy may have shrugged off its uncool, druggy image, but has enough bad assed attitude to keep the night-time adventurer on his or her toes. 

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