The Railway Hotel, North Fitzroy

I have been pondering for a while the sad disappearance, through either redevelopment or renovation, of most of the old school typical Australian pubs I remember from years gone by.

What I crave, I guess, is a pub with its last renovation and furnishings from the 1970s, such as red vinyl covered chairs, and laminated tables, and hopefully a bar area which was installed in the 1930s.

I did lunch today at one such pub, and it was a delight.

First, to explain the name of the Railway Hotel, which is in Nicholson Street in North Fitzroy. There used to be an inner circle rail line, disused since the late 1940s, which ran from Royal Park til Clifton Hill. You can still see traces, such as the bridge in Royal Parade spanning a disused rail line, the red brick former railway station at North Carlton, and bits of railway intentionally left where they crossed the roads in the area. Otherwise, the only remnant is a bike path along a thin strip of parkland.

And, located close to where the North Fitzroy railway station used to stand, there is the Railway Hotel.

I think this is only the second time I have ever been there, and it has a unique charm to it, particularly due to various of the historic quirks about it, beyond the long redundant name. The bottle shop window is still painted with gold letters advertising Mildara Brandy, and gold letters on the door from the public bar (closed usually) to the bistro area where I sat proclaim it as the Ladies Lounge.

As the publican said, it is a country pub in the city – which is a rare gem indeed these days. It’s last renovation must have been in the 1970s (the end of six o’clock closing in 1974 prompted many pubs to do a renovation in that era), but it is immaculately maintained, as are the chairs and tables of that era. No sticky carpet, just a well laid lino floor covering which is easy to mop.

There is a concrete beer garden out the back, past the toilets, but this beer garden has more charm to it than many, as it features a large lemon tree and a banana tree, amongst others.

All of this appeals to me far more than the bulk of contemporary refurbishings of pubs, with their purple carpets and poker machines, or the current slightly better tables and bar areas fitted out with dark red varnished timber or polished metal sheets.

Published by Ernest Zanatta

Narrow minded Italian Catholic Conservative Peasant from Footscray.

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