One of Melbourne’s great classic pubs doesn’t need any gimmicks
On a drizzly, cold night in the quiet back streets of South Melbourne, the Railway doesn’t look like much from the outside. Stepping inside, however, transports you to 1968 and the Pub that Time Forgot. An open fire dispatches the chill like a cup of your Nana’s tea, and the chef smiles broadly as he walks through the room, commenting on the cosy scene. One elderly chap sits at the counter, pot in hand, watching the sports update on the telly. The big central bar’s hardwood surface is polished with time and trimmed with chromed aluminium; a suspended, ribbed glass cabinet runs its length at head height. Behind the bar, beers live in old-fashioned locker-style fridges. This place isn’t just old – left to collect dust because no one could afford or be bothered to update the décor – but it’s preserved, with meticulous pride. The courtyard out back looks like a tiki shack, all palms and thatching. In the dining room, Saint Elvis of Mississippi smiles that wry smile of his from a huge portrait while his contemporaries provide the backing track for a tasty $5 glass of Kiwi pinot noir. It’s one of many cheap and cheerful options here, like a $10 burger or bowl of pasta for lunch Wednesday to Sunday and $9 jugs during Friday happy hour. Practically 1972 prices! If you get bored, there’s a beautiful, ageing pool table, its blue-grey felt matching the two-toned vinyl floor, and every footy game is on live. Food takes an American tack, with pulled-pork and mac’n’cheese alongside pub classics. Wings are fried just right, and tossed in sambal rather than drowning in buttery wing sauce. It’s a cleaner version of the New York bar classic, both for your fingers and your heart. There’s even a range of spirits to rival a small cocktail bar including nearly every bottling of Glenmorangie single malt. So many old pubs have faded quietly into history, or been gastrofied, clubified or sad-pokie-fluorofied to the point that they’re barely recognisable as pubs anymore. Not so the Railway: a reminder for us all what a real pub looks like.