Among Fitzroy’s profusion of elaborately decorated, vintage-strewn bars, a person might begin to feel a little cloyed. Enter the Workers Club, enviably situated at the corner of Gertrude and Brunswick Streets, to act as a cleanser for the jaded palate. The former Rob Roy Hotel is now in the hands of the Jerome Borazio and the team behind St Jerome and Sister Bella, and although the style of the bar is very different to the previous two their fingerprints are all over it.
It’s not just a pub – it’s a band venue, an art space and a project. There’s even an associated online newsletter, Get Notorious. The surprisingly large venue is comprised of several rooms leading off from one another at odd angles - there’s the main bar, side bar, band room and an outdoor courtyard to the rear. Upstairs there are artists’ studios for rent, the fruits of which are intermittently displayed in the windows facing Gertrude Street. Clean modern lines and muted colours dominate: the main bar features blonde wood walls and a single large geometric mural, the side bar is swaddled floor-to-ceiling in '70s carpet and the band room has no walls – that is to say, it has raw exposed beams on all sides and still smells sweetly of plywood.
The menu is largely sophisticated takes on traditional pub comfort food, like bangers with mash, braised red cabbage and onion jus, but there are a few more ambitious highlights like the pan-fried gnocchi with porcini dust, caramelised onion and field mushrooms, and the wonderful roast tomato and saffron arancini balls. Cocktails come in jugs here, which seems a fairly good reason not to order one, but the beer selection is fun – we recommend giving the great Melbourne brew Black Betty Lager at least a quick turn. The house wines, adorably, are called ‘Workers Wines’, and the crowd is a strange and unpredictable mix of old and new school Fitzroy denizens. Power to the people.