An all-rounder right off the bat, the Phoenix Public House is a welcome new addition to the Sydney Road melange, having quietly opened its doors on a Friday in late August. Taking over The Spot at the city end of Brunswick, it’s part pub, part low-key bar and has a dedicated band room.
If the smart-casual fit-outs and ambidextrous service of The Workers Club or The Grace Darling are springing to mind, you’re not far off. The Phoenix is another ‘destination bar’; a place to chow down on the Melbourne foodie version of pub grub, hang out in the front bar listening to DJs and catch a band later. With a 3am licence, there’s no need to make other plans.
There’s another reason for those comparisons, too. Paris Martine of music booking agency Contrary – which books The Grace and counts The Workers as a past client – is behind much of the refurbishment. Brought in by The Spot’s owners to transform the venue, Martine and design and marketing company Godel have stripped the place back to showcase its art deco origins (its new name references its history as the Phoenix Hotel and its subsequent ownership by the Storeman & Packers Union.)
“We dragged everything out,” Martine says. “We wanted to go back to basics and we found some amazing things under the layers.” Amongst those are the original glass panels atop the front bar and the deco lights and multicoloured marble flooring in the band room.
Behind the kitchen is Michael Baroud of Elsternwick’s Arabesque, who has designed a comfort food menu with a Middle Eastern bent. Think kofta burgers, haloumi sticks and spices where a regular pub menu would have none.
The band room, which opens on Thursday September 15 with the first show of a three-week residency by Aleks & The Ramps, has the air of an old reception centre, with a wide stage and bars on either side. With a capacity of 280 people, it’s also big enough to put the Phoenix on the map for international acts in future. Martine tells us the band room will also have a proper wine list, so no more ‘house whites’ for those wanting a pinot gris with their rock’n’roll.
Phoenix Public House
133 Sydney Road (cnr Union Street), Brunswick
(03) 9388 0222
Mon to Sat 4pm–3am