The vast majority of CBD bar-frequenters still don’t realise the average cost of a cab ride to Port Melbourne is a measly 10 bucks. It’s a shame. But it’s places like Mr Lawrence (the latest version of Port’s most famous corner pub, The London) that will make that cheap cab trip more likely.
So, what’s changed? Well, structurally, not a whole lot. But what’s on the menu and in the bar is worlds apart from its former self. “Port Melbourne is still a hugely mixed demographic,” explains Matthew Thurley, one of current part owners of the pub. “You find a lot of venues here, but not a lot of quality ones. The white-collars have almost totally taken over now, so why aren’t there better places here to eat and drink?”
In reinventing The London, Thurley wanted some continuity with Port Melbourne’s history while signalling a change in direction. “The London has been so many different things over the years, from a fine-dining destination to a rough-as-guts corner boozer,” says Thurley. “It’s been known as The London to so many, and we didn’t want to rob the venue of its identity, but we wanted to make sure people knew the place had changed.”
Ashley Richey (Chin Chin’s ex-head chef) is the man in charge of driving the new food offering for the pub. “The menu doesn’t necessarily lean towards a specific cuisine, but does take a great deal of influence from the whole coastline of the Mediterranean,” explains Richey.
The food borrows little snips from Morocco (eggplant, spinach and pea tagine), Spain (chorizo, peppers et al) and Turkey (lamb and harissa koftes) but also extends well beyond, offering classic pub dishes done well. Plates can be shared or eaten alone, and there’s a whole section of Turkish pizzas. Even at breakfast you’ll see some of the same Moorish themes sneaking through (it does a cracking Lebanese breakfast of hummus, eggs, falafel, labne and flatbread). This Middle-Eastern-by-way-of-England vibe earned the pub its new name (Mr Lawrence, i.e. TE Lawrence, otherwise known as Lawrence of Arabia).
Beyond the grub and its smart moniker, Mr Lawrence has one of Melbourne’s toughest views to beat. In the late afternoon, when the sun is setting and the brigade of cruise liners begin to dock, things get pretty special. All of this happens less than 100 metres away from your snug table nestled inside the pub’s front windows. Hail that taxi already.