Mr Brownie is Jessi Singh’s biggest project yet. The chef-restaurateur is behind casual Indian diners Horn Please and Daughter in Law, and Flinders Lane wine bar Mrs Singh, but his new South Melbourne pub is four storeys tall, with an eclectic bar on every level.
It first opened in July, just as Melbourne went back into stage-three lockdown, but it was back for good from October 29.
In the basement is the Boom Boom Room, an intimate, red-lit cocktail bar. On the ground floor there’s a bottle shop with counter seating, more than 1400 craft beers from Aussie brewers, and a few from Singh’s former home in San Francisco (masala-spiced porters, milk-chocolate stouts and orange sour beers make up just part of the mammoth collection).
On level one is the dining room, featuring a mixture of tall tables and booths, and the open-air rooftop is home to a tiki-style bar with knockout city views. Plus, to take advantage of the outdoor-dining allowances, a 50-seat beer garden has popped up on Park Street.
Singh designed the space himself, filling it with red-velvet furniture and an array of plants – all bathed in neon blue, red, green and purple lights – and playing tracks from the ’70s and ’80s.
Singh says Mr Brownie (the name is a playful spin on the tradition of naming pubs after historical European figures) is about showcasing Indian-British fare – and specifically how well curry and beer work together.
“When the British settled in India during the Raj, they set up clubs where they’d drink beer and eat curries that evolved to their tastes. Curries were made creamier, less spicy and sweeter,” he says. “There were also very famous signs outside the clubs that would read ‘No dogs or Indians allowed’.
“In 1947 the British left India. They moved to other British colonies, like Australia, New Zealand. That’s why most of the Indian food we eat here is Indian-British style.”
Despite this chequered colonial past, Singh still finds something worth celebrating in the crossing of cultures.
The samosa burger is carried over from Babu Ji, Singh’s temporarily closed New York restaurant. A freshly made samosa comes sandwiched in a burger bun, its mild spice balanced with a minty tamarind chutney. There are also toasted brioche rolls filled with butter chicken, and nachos topped with salsa, date and tamarind chutney, mint and coriander. Plus, saucy and cheesy butter chicken parmas, which feature a whole thigh instead of diced pieces.
Singh’s curry pies are another fun drawcard, and they come with curry-dusted fries. Choose from chicken tikka, a fiery lamb vindaloo, palak paneer (cheese and spinach) and the chickpea-based chana masala. They’re $8 to take away or $10 if you’re dining in.
You can order the curries – which Singh says are made with more aromatics but less heat than traditional Indian food – on their own too, or try two at once as part of the $20 thali special made popular at his other restaurants, with rice, pickles and pappadums.
And on weekends, Singh is running all-day sausage sizzles, serving curry sausages in bread rolls with grilled onion and peppers.
There are 16 beer taps, rotating weekly, as well as four tap wines – including a pét-nat – all from Tasmanian winery Domaine Simha.
343 Clarendon Street, South Melbourne
Wed to Sun 12pm–late
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on October 28, 2020. Menu items may have changed since publication.