You may have noticed a few changes on on Johnston Street, most noticably on the Smith-to-Brunswick-Street stretch. The most recent, and most noticable is The Rochey. Gone is the two-toned salmon-pink and navy-blue exterior, and in its place is a spanking new venue with a giant neon crab above the door.

Bridgitte and Jon Costelloe (owners of The Vic, Aviary Hotel and Dr Morse) have revived the former dive bar/sweaty live-music den and reopened it to the public yesterday.

To be fair, the divey element is still in effect. The shell of the hotel still stands, the interior is dimly lit and the fake bookshelf that once lead to a secret “library” upstairs now sits in the downstairs bar.

“There’s still a little bit of that old Rochey feel, but not too much. This is a completely new venue,” says general manager Stu Moss.

Another noticeable change is the new kitchen, which stands where the dance floor used to be. Head chef and founder of Miss Katie’s Crab Shack (previously at The Public Bar in North Melbourne), Katie Marron, has relocated to the Fitzroy pub with mallets and bibs in tow. The menu is bigger than the former North Melbourne shack, but just as messy. The traditional crab boil remains, as does Katie’s fried chicken. Family-style sharing is also encouraged.

There are 10 beers on tap, mostly craft, and there’s a rotating menu of cocktails. Also, there will be some ice-tea concoctions.

The live music element has survived the refit – a new stage and DJ platform sits in the bar area, so expect it to get noisy on weekends.

The dining area is at the rear of the venue, with leather green banquette seating and table service. The plan is to introduce a late-night menu, too, so you can get crab snacks in the wee hours. Finally, there’s a leafy courtyard complete with fishing nets, crab baskets and a huge tugboat mural.

The Rochester Castle Hotel
202 Johnston Street, Fitzroy

Mon to Wed 3pm–1am
Thu 12pm–1am
Fri & Sat 12pm–3am
Sun 12pm–11pm