Bikini-wearing waitresses on rollerskates. Fake dead rats. A man infamously shot dead in the front bar. The Osbourne Hotel has seen plenty in its 153-year history.
Now its current owners, the Fitzgibbons family, have returned the pub to its former glory – beginning with the reinstatement of its original name. The Fortitude Valley pub’s walls and ceilings have been stripped back to reveal historic details, quirky portraits poke fun at past names and a shock of white exterior paint makes the old two-storey venue pop on Ann Street.
While the pub might be new, the venue has been run by the Fitzgibbonses for 38 years. This story begins during World War Two when Brian Fitzgibbons Snr was loading naval ships at Teneriffe. After work he and his colleagues would drop into The Osbourne Hotel for beers. It was those fond memories that drove his decision to purchase the venue in 1980.
It's been under the guidance of his son, Brian Jnr, that the Osbourne has gone full circle – it’s been known as The Dead Rat, the Rat & Parrot, Fringe Bar (and Kerbside). Now back to the Osbourne Hotel again. “We [were waiting] until the market settled to take our next opportunity,” Fitzgibbons Jnr says. “If you go in too early, it fails. If you go in too late it's old hat.”
The new Osbourne Hotel was on the drawing board for six years. The covered, open-air yard is unrecognisable with its greenery, light wooden tables, chairs and striking architectural features. Upstairs, the old hotel rooms make for a rabbit warren of small and large function spaces. Some relics, furniture and murals from Fringe Bar and Kerbside have been reused, while new lights, artwork and furniture complete the 800-person venue.
Between three bars 92 taps pour everything from XXXX to local craft beers and micro brews not often seen north of the border, such as Canberra’s Capital Brewing. A boutique wine list features young Australian winemakers including Murdoch Hills and BK Wines, and inside a smaller boutique bar shakes classics cocktails with a new twist.
Head chef Jamie MacKinney (ex-Alliance Hotel) has designed a well-priced menu using quality local produce. “Our food isn't what everyone else is doing right now,” venue manager Jason Hirt says. “We've gone with very healthy fresh salads. We've got the top steaks. Our schnitzel is panko crumbed with parmesan.”
Premium pizzas, oysters, European tinned sardines and a round-the-world line-up of starters complete the menu. Five extra dishes are brought on for lunch, all of which deliver change from a $20.
The Osbourne will open seven days, with the promise of entertainment in some form every night. Just don’t come expecting girls on skates in bikinis.
The Osbourne Hotel
Corner Ann & Constance Streets, Fortitude Valley
(07) 3252 9833
Mon to Thu 7am–late