Walking through longstanding Brunswick Street cocktail bar Polly, past its lavish velvet and oil paintings, is a strange warm up to watching the footy.
But at the back of that room and up a staircase is where you’ll find The Roy, a new cocktail-cum-sports bar from Polly owners Nora and Casey Gordon. The space was an old, dilapidated two-bedroom apartment that Casey – who grew up in Gnowangerup, a 300-person, one pub town in Western Australia – wanted to convert into something a little closer to his roots than the pomp of the main bar.
“I’m originally from a small country town. I’ve always been in pubs – something a bit more relaxed … So going into Polly was a bit of a culture shock,” he says. “But through that I got into drinking some nice spirits, so thought it would be nice to watch the game with a cracking Old Fashioned in your hand.”
Cocktails, fine liquor, obscure beer and sport aren’t obvious bedfellows but Casey thinks there’s room for it in Melbourne. Whisky highballs and Old Fashioneds will be on offer to accompany the footy.
“We’re trying to steer away from buckets of Budweiser and wings,” says Gordon, although he couldn't resist a Budweiser neon sign.
Gordon follows the AFL and barracks for the West Coast Eagles, which can lead to gentle ribbing from his staff. Bar manager Chris Hinds – who moved up from assistant manager at Polly – goes for Melbourne.
“West Coast pipped them at the end of the finals last year. So it’s good to rub it in every now and then,” Gordon says. “He put his hand straight up for it because he’s a sports fiend. He gets to sit there and serve beers and watch the game so he can’t complain.”
You’ll find simple Furphy Refreshing Ale on tap but more adventurous drinkers can try a Du Mont Blanc au Genepi Dolin, a wheat beer bolstered by genepi – a member of the wormwood family of herbs that are the backbone of absinthe.
They’re keeping it simple on the food front, with pies from Princes Pies.
The bar’s walls have been stripped back to brick and are dotted with pieces of sporting memorabilia. The husband and wife team spent months trawling online auction sites to find commemorative jerseys and vintage beer coasters. Gordon’s favourite part of the fit-out is the jukebox and despite being chided by friends on its impracticality in the age of Spotify, he’s stuck to his guns.
“It’s something everyone’s given me shit about and I thought fuck it, I’m going to do it. It’s got The Boss, old Fleetwood Mac.”
In the soon to be smokers' area, old footy magazines have been arranged into a collage – the ’70s and ’80s haircuts on display are magnificent. Although Casey isn’t willing to shave the sides of his own head, his 18-month-old son Duke fits right in.
“The kid’s got a borderline mullet,” Gordon says. “Just from laziness, we haven’t cut it.”
Entrance via Polly Bar, 401 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.
(03) 8669 1650
Tue to Fri 5pm–1am
Sat and Sun 2pm–1am
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