“The DNA of Bimbos is so much about the interior and the vibe of the place, and we thought, ‘Shit, if we’ve lost that, how do we reimagine what Bimbos would be if it was brought forward to today?’”

This is Lawrence Dowd, managing director of Colonial Leisure Group, which is behind the all-new Bimbo (formerly Bimbo Deluxe), as well as sister bar Lucky Coq, Albert Park Hotel and Brighton eatery Half Moon.

It’s been a long year for Bimbo fans, who’ve gone many days and nights without an integral part of the Brunswick Street itinerary. Formerly the Punters Club, but operating as Bimbo Deluxe since 2002, the corner site succumbed to fire in May last year. Dowd’s mission has been to preserve as much of the spirit of the original as possible, while also taking the opportunity to evolve.

The giant Kewpie doll on the building’s exterior is familiar. But inside, regulars won’t recognise the place. The re-fit is by former owner of now-closed city institution Honkytonks and interior designer Rabindra Naidoo (Epocha, Neapoli, Pidapipo, Juliet), who kept the original floor plan and stayed true to the comfortable dim lighting that made it so easy to spend all night at the old iteration.

The fire took out the bar, so now there’s a commanding American oak horseshoe bar in its place. There are black and white terrazzo floors underfoot, broken up by diagonal brass detailing. Where once you’d have sunk into one of the mismatched old couches, now there are pale pink fibreglass booths.

The design team applied layers of shellac to the old walls, creating a mottled, lived-in effect. “Where it was damaged we’ve had to grind into the walls,” says Dowd. “It’s been an expensive process, but it’s created this interesting texture.”

The main room features work by local contemporary artist Elliott Routledge. It’s bold, with blocks of colour, stripes and smiley faces that – under the rainbow disco lights and ceiling mirrors – appear cheerful and nightmarish at the same time. New artworks will be revealed later in the year, including an epic mural in the upstairs garden by local artist Filthy Ratbag, and a provocative piece by Los Angeles illustrator Kristen Liu-Wong.

There’s an all-new sound system, and a DJ booth in a stripped-out old plane, finished in fiery pink and purple flames. There are also plans to hang a clique of mini Kewpie dolls from the mirrored ceiling over the dance floor.

“There’s a sense of theatre about it,” says Dowd. “We always like to offer an original experience to our punters, like nothing you’d see anywhere else. And that’s hard to do.”

Bimbo’s legendary $4 pizza specials were one of the old pub’s greatest attractions, and they live on here. The Caesar is mozzarella, chicken, cos, croutons and bacon, and the spiced lamb pizza comes with red sauce, garlic oil, yoghurt and coriander. There’s a chocolate and a Turkish delight version, too. Lighter is a handful of salads or the vegan poke bowl.

Jugs of sangria or Pimms Cup are $30 each, and the infused vodkas are back – try coconut and banana, or ginger and lychee. The one-page wine list spans mostly Australia and New Zealand.

Bimbo
376 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
(03) 9419 8600

Hours:
Sun to Thu 12pm–1am
Fri & Sat 12pm–3am

bimbo.melbourne

This article first appeared on Broadsheet on May 22, 2019. Menu items may have changed since publication.