The venerable Fox Hotel was founded in 1887, making it one of Melbourne’s oldest pubs. After 120-plus years, several name changes and a fire, it's unlikely its early patrons would recognise it now, but it's still a bastion of good hospitality.
The wine list is long and filled with helpful descriptions, but it’s got nothing on the beer range, which is vast and ever-changing. It covers everything from an in-house lager to extravagantly priced US imports like Rogue Brewery’s John John Dead Guy ($30). The impressive collection of old beer cans over the bar, including a set of Tennant’s girly cans, testifies to publicans Clodagh Harris, Tracy Walsh and Bridie Harrop's long, deep love affair with brews. The pub is a hive of activity during Good Beer Week, strongly supporting the first ladies of the brewing scene, and hosting the annual scavenger hunt.
The menu has all the usual pub standards like steak and parmas, but gets surprisingly fancy with such offerings as gyoza, duck risotto and kangaroo fillets with chilli oil and lemon myrtle. The vegetarian/vegan selection is large and presently includes a marinated tofu steak with wasabi mayo and sticky rice, and the carborific field mushroom lasagne. There’s also the option to design your own pizza, if you really can’t make up your mind.
The front bar is comfortable but not especially noteworthy – pass through to the dimly lit, poky little rooms at the rear to soak up some real atmosphere. The tongue-in-cheek décor features mannequin parts, mirror balls and all manner of brightly coloured retro furniture – it’s all quite adorably 90s. Local artists play gigs on the low stage in the back several times a week, including frequent Sunday afternoon sessions, and in summer the Fox’s rooftop, with its great views over the city, is a lovely place to be. It’s a relaxed, pleasant little hideaway.