The Courthouse North Melbourne is a historic building. And not just because it was one of Melbourne’s best gastropubs in the mid-2000s and early 2010s. Originally built in 1857 and called The Peacock Hotel the venue on the corner of Errol and Queensberry streets, was renamed in 1861, in a nod to the fact that, back then, it was across the road from the local courthouse.
The building was remodelled to its current blond-brick art deco state in the 1940s, and now the team behind Naughtons Hotel in Parkville – Ryan Moses, Rusty Sturrock and Ryan and Laura Berry – as well as Sunday Birch and Ellie Sturrock, have taken over the lease. The pub closed after the lease expired for its previous owners in May 2022, and it reopened in late autumn of this year after the new crew took over.
The Naughtons crew wanted to acknowledge the building’s rich history. “It was a beautiful pub in the 2000s, but has been left to its own devices over the last few years,” says Sturrock. “We wanted to restore it to its former glory and retain as many of the original features as possible.”
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They worked with architect Alana Cooke on a renovation that maintained the building’s bones and art deco style. They hand-stripped decades of paint to bring the wood panelling back to life, cleaned the floorboards, refurbished the original fireplace, changed the wallpaper to a cream-with-a-grasscloth-finish and put in new brown leather banquettes and terrazzo bar tops and tables, alongside Australian spotted gum tables.
The front bar has a classic old-school pub feel, perfect for casual drinking and watching AFL, while the backbar is good for bigger groups. There’s also a main dining room and two upstairs private rooms which accommodate 10 or 35 guests.
During its gastropub heyday (mid-2000s to early 2010s), chefs including Stephen Burke (formerly of Garden State Hotel) and Zoe Birch (now the co-owner and chef of Greasy Zoe’s) ran the kitchen and served high-level pub food. The kitchen, which stopped serving food under the previous publicans, is back up and running.
Sturrock says he is not trying to reinvent the wheel with the menu, and wants to do pub classics. He’s making his own sausages (made with pork shoulder he has bought and minced), served with braised lentils and caramelised apple. He’s also doing his own fish butchery. The Sunday roast is whole chook or pork shoulder cooked over the custom parilla grill, with steaks also cooked over the open charcoal pit. There are also plans for a weekly curry night.
English-style ales from Holgate Brewhouse and Love Shack Brewing Company are poured from two hand pumps or beer engines, a way of serving beer usually associated with British pubs where ales are dispensed without the use of carbon dioxide. A selection of local brews from Hop Nation is also on offer.
A record player has pride of place in the front bar next to a collection of vintage vinyl gleaned from Ryan Berry’s dad’s extensive collection. Expect tunes from the Beatles, Queen, Pink Floyd and Dolly Parton.
With a 30-year lease, the group say they are here for the long haul. “We want to get it right and do the building and its history justice,” says Sturrock.
The Courthouse North Melbourne
86-90 Errol Street, North Melbourne
(03) 7001 9963
Mon to Wed 3pm–late
Thurs to Sun midday–late