To find out where the name of the new pub in Fitzroy, Town Hall Hotel came from, simply look up. The letters spell out its name at the top of the original building that has, in its last two incarnations, been the Purple Turtle and Griffs Wine Pub, but has now been given its old name back by its new owners.
Co-owner Harry Lilai is no stranger to the Melbourne dining scene. A well-known chef who was with the Cecconi group for 10 years - eight years at Crown and then two as part-owner at the Flinders Lane site – and was most recently running the kitchen at Orange on Commercial Road. He’s now jumped the river and has set up shop on Johnston Street with his wife Michelle and front-of-house manager Luca Montibelli and his wife, pastry chef, Nadia. Lilai has moved into a building with wonderful ‘bones’ - there’s a function room upstairs, the private dining room (the cellar room) in the basement, the bar at the front and a bistro out back.
All bases seem covered and the easy environment suits Lilia’s signature style that is very much Italian-leaning with big flavours and textures, quality and authenticity. All pastas are made in-house, the rustic bread is from Noisette, the meat dishes are as bold as they are thoughtfully executed and the service is equally relaxed but the staff know their stuff. The front bar is the spot for tagliatelle aglio olio or a ballsy hamburger while the bistro takes things up a notch with entrees and mains (and dishes to share, a spicy quail is worth ordering). It’s great to have a chef of this calibre in Fitzroy serving simple food in a very easy environment.
Town Hall Hotel
166 Johnston Street
(03) 9419 5055
Tue-Sat noon-3pm, 6pm-late