This inner-city bar is kooky, kitsch and a lot of fun
Madame Brussels is the flirty parlour bar that sits above Collins Street’s Akuza lounge like a frilly debutante with a whole lot of sass. It’s in this place of AstroTurf and garden furniture that you’ll find an exclusively good-looking staff wearing vintage tennis gear and throwing around Pimms cups, sausage rolls and winks. It’s the kind of joint where wearing fur or a suit isn’t just allowed but encouraged. Big jugs of fruity cocktails are being consumed everywhere you look on the terrace – and they’re a great option if you’ve got a big group and a long summer afternoon ahead. Personally, we find they get a little wishy-washy in the sun, and prefer thematically appropriate Martinis, or bottles of rosé and bubbles. It’s a sharp list, put together by the outrageous, fabulous owner, Miss Pearls. It’s been seven years since she and partner Vernon Chalker opened this bar (a milestone that Pearls celebrated by jumping out of a giant cake), and they’ve consistently kept the place pumping by sweating the details. They offer blankets, fondue and hot spiced rum in winter. If you ask nicely, they’ll even give you a hot water bottle. Sure, there’s an element of tweeness to it all, but this isn’t a bar you come to for discussing fiduciary matters. It’s about fun. And they serve that by the bucketload.
Madame Brussels Garden Party
Wimbledon in the '70s, homemade Pimms, and a whole lotta astroturf – at Madame Brussels' Garden Party, they do a self-proclaimed daggy high tea with all the trimmings.
Don a floral dress – lace gloves if you so desire – and leave your parasol at home, because Miss Pearls will provide you with one. This isn’t a high tea ladies; it’s a daggy, less-formal garden party where curried egg sandwiches and sausage rolls reign supreme. And the setting! You half expect to see Alice in Wonderland getting it on with Bjorn Borg – think boys in short shorts, and girls in white tennis frocks serving up the delectable delights.
At Madame Brussels, your very own garden party can be had in the hedged bar indoors – park your tush on a floral couch or wicker chair and tuck into the tea behind your very own white picket fence, or go the fancy terrace – if weather permits – and have your own mad hatters tea party overlooking the Melbourne skyline. Or you can hire out the parlour, but going up the rear of Madame Brussels ain’t cheap.
The food of the garden party is straight out of a Margaret Fulton cookbook. The package itself includes traditional sandwiches such as pickles and ham and chicken and chives; spinach and herb roulade, sausage rolls and scones – all ending with a sweet cupcake. Glutards and vegetarians are tailored for too.
All the while you get to sip from the Madame’s jugs: the signature DD Cup comes as part of the garden package. It’s a Melbourne take on Pimms and lemonade. Maidenii – vermouth sourced from Central Victoria – is used in lieu of Pimms and the homemade liquor oozes Australiana botanicals so your mouth is awash with wattle and gum. Big hearty chunks of strawberries and orange slices keep your refreshed, as well as long strips of cucumber. The drinks menu features a plethora of jugs to get your mouth around, from the Italian Stallion, to the Ball Boy, to the Prussian Iced Tea – a minty, peachy afternoon delight steeped in Earl Grey and tequila.
Madame Brussels Garden Party is $42 per head at weekends between noon and 3pm. Or, if there are more than ten of you, you can book a weekday slot. It’s targeted at ladies who love a fancy-free soiree with plenty of fun and frivolity. Thinks hen’s party revelries and girls-only birthday bashes.