Casual-boozer-come-dance-club Miss Libertine bit the big one this year, and filling the shell is Captain Melville – an outback/gold rush era/bushranger-themed bistro and bar.
Yeah, we panicked too. But mercifully, the most Sovereign Hill thing about this joint is the big country pub veranda (prime turf for afternoon beers), and a dining room of bluestone, broad timber tables and steel frames that reminds us of a really nice shearing shed.
Downstairs you'll find the restaurant where things stay pretty proper, but after a bit of extra renovating, they've also just launched an upstairs cocktail bar that stays open until 5am so you can relive the good old Miss Libs days. It's not going to be your usual late night boozer though. Canadian cocktail gun Sarah Miller is in charge so expect some well crafted drinks.
If you are here to eat, you'll either be pleased or disappointed to learn that there’s no mutton stew – despite the click-go the-shears surrounds. Or damper, strangely (which we’re actually sad about). Instead you’ll find well-worn bar snacks like sliders stuffed with soft belly, crackling and baby cos lettuce, and cumin-spiced lamb wrapped in crisp brik pastry like little Middle Eastern spring rolls. Failsafe, tasty stuff.
They’re casting a wide net. Big name Asahis and Boag's dominate the taps, but there's the odd 3 Ravens local brew by the bottle. You’ll find elaborate quinoa and baby beet salads for the veg’ crew, and a front bar pushing oysters and cocktails (suited to those who like their drink with an elaborate back story and lots of syrups). But aside from the fact that your steak is a $36 hunk of Sher wagyu rump and your side salad is packing charred asparagus (fancy!) you’re looking at a straight down the line menu of pub staples that won’t scare away the casual lunch crowd.
Get the rabbit pie – braised with tomato, the juicy meat is stripped off the bone and captured between two butter-rich golden disks of puff pastry. We're less keen on the fussy frozen lamingtons with intense chocolate sauce, but a banana split slicked with salted caramel does everything it should.
We’ll eternally miss Miss Lib’s dirty D-floor, but for dining option-deprived locals of upper Franklin, you can chalk up this changeover as a win.