In 1999, after 107 years in residence, Collingwood Football Club left Victoria Park. It was a major blow for the area's traders, which relied on the crowds drawn to every home game. Since then, the adjacent stretch of Johnston Street has mostly been a wasteland of faded and peeling signage. But not for much longer.
In January, Jon Costelloe and Anth Daniel (owner of The Aviary and The Vic Bar) opened coffee window Jr Morse, with manager, Pete Walsh. Now the trio have opened the main eatery, Dr Morse. It joins the ranks of locals such as Rita's Cafeteria, Admiral Cheng-ho, Bluebird Espresso, The Yarra Hotel, Temple Town hair salon and upcoming creative space Mycelium Studios.
The full-grown Dr Morse offers a sizeable beer garden and a handsome interior space of exposed concrete and timber. The renovation took close to a year, with a cast of friends doing all the work and making it up as they went along. When someone uncovered an early-1900s mural advertising “Dr Morse's Indian Root Pills", the venue's concept was born. "It was a cure for everything," says Costelloe. "It listed 30 different ailments. The last line said, ‘Cures all female complaints!' It was definitely a different time." The vibrant wall was left in place, and a larger interpretation added to the beer garden by artist Simon Moody.
The venue's head chef, Josh Clark (ex-Fifty Acres) with sous chefs Kane Papworth and Tyler Preston (ex-Proud Mary and Chin Chin, respectively) serve up a range of subtle fusions such as sardines with fiery habanero sambal, or pork belly with pear and tabasco jam. Simpler options include jaffles, a beef burger, pig ear bites with mayo, or cheese and biscuits. The booze list sticks to local, the closest supplier being Abbotsford’s Moondog Brewery.
"I think Brunswick Street's coming to an end a little bit, as far as nightlife, and Smith Street's filling up really quick," Walsh says. "People want something different." Dr Morse bets on it.
Dr Morse Bar & Eatery
274 Johnston Street, Abbotsford
(03) 9416 1005
Hours (Dr Morse)
Sun to Wed 11.30am–11pm
Thu to Sat 11.30am–1am
Hours (Jr Morse)
Mon to Fri 7am–4pm
Sat & Sun 8am–4pm