As another Melbourne winter looms, there’s no need to cocoon yourself at home until spring comes around. If anything, Melbourne’s cooler climate is perfect for that timeless winter indulgence: a roaring fireplace. And what better way to warm everything between your fingers and toes than at the hearth of some of Melbourne’s best bars and pubs with a glass of something warming in hand?
One of many Melbourne pubs with a fire inside is the North Fitzroy Star Hotel, with fireplaces at each end to warmly welcome you in from the cold. Excuses to while away hours in front of the flame abound, with bookshelves full of Penguin classics for those who like a little literature with their libation. For those in need of more substantial winter sustenance, there are the plush chairs of the Star’s famed dining room to sink yourself into, while tucking into its equally famed hearty fare.”
Further along in Melbourne’s ring of fireplace bars and pubs is the dimly lit barn of Northcote’s Wesley Anne. Laid out before the fireplace are chairs and tables with candles to contemplate as you make your way through a bowl of steamed mussels or hearty lamb pie. If wild horses cannot drag you away, an acoustic set from the bandroom next door just might.
Along Lygon Street’s golden mile of East Brunswick bars are the art deco delights of The Alderman. Though better known for its courtyard’s leafy ambience (during the warmer months), The Alderman has a fireplace tucked into its back room. Seat yourself at a table and make your trip to the bar just that little bit shorter and your stay at The Alderman that little bit longer while you catch wind of the Sicilian food on offer.
A winter westerly away is Acqua e Vino, an expansive Yarraville bar with a wine list of biblical proportions. Acqua e Vino proffers up a match made in wintery heaven: chesterfields lounges and a crackling fire to warm you – a smug little first-floor haven for you to peer down at the windswept village streets below.
Across the chilled waters of the bay is St Kilda’s Local Taphouse, offering beer aficionados two fireplaces around which to slake their winter thirsts. Inside is a traditional fireplace befitting the bar’s old English charm, while the courtyard has an open fireplace smoldering outside. With regular beer tasting events, who needs winter sports when you can entertain yourself with more leisurely (if less slimming) pursuits?
Swinging from one kind of pub experience to another, the Great Britain Hotel in Richmond is a place to rekindle your passion for a classic pub in which to since a pints at the bar over mixed nuts. Food can be ordered in from neighbouring pizza and Thai restaurants, but it’s nothing fancy. If you can weave through lively crowds, sunken couches, rowdy pool players and beer jugs, you’ll find a fireplace with portraits of the Emirs of Kuwait and Brunei peering back down at you. With an intimate (read: packed) setting for its live music and open mike nights, its lively crowds and performers’ sweaty brows are yet more ways to distract yourself from the cold.
Melbourne’s plethora of city bars give you scope to explore the fireplace gamut from one end of the spectrum to the other. Said to be the oldest building in Melbourne, the Mitre is a genuine contemporary of the fireplace. So long in the tooth it almost sinks into the cobblestones of Bank Place, the Mitre is a living, breathing part of the city, kept alive by a countless yet diverse stream of patrons who pass by its humble hearth to make their way to and from the bar.
From old to near new is the Grand Hyatt’s Ru-Co bar. More inviting than most hotel bars, Ru-Co entices a small but growing set of patrons, moth-like, to its breathtaking fireplace. Set across the entire length of the back wall, flames form a glowing, modern vector to marvel at from the comfort of a sleek leather couch. Not just a fireplace novelty, Ru-Co boasts a selection of imported spirits rarely available elsewhere, proving itself a hotel bar likely to survive many winters to come.
Beyond this brief selection are many more Melbourne bars and pubs kindling hearths around the inner city. Take each fire lit as yet another reason to get yourself out of the house and enjoy some of winter’s simplest pleasures.
North Fitzroy Star Hotel
32–36 St Georges Road South, North Fitzroy
Acqua e Vino
18a Anderson Street, Yarraville
Sun 2.30pm –late
The Mitre Tavern
5 Bank Place, Melbourne