The Rose Hotel on Napier Street has been an iconic Fitzroy watering hole for decades. To many a Melburnian, the Rose is more than just a pub serving beer, wine and grub – it was a place where memories were made.
For Tom Hogan, the Rose Hotel was the place he went to celebrate his buck’s party. Ironically, 10 years later, he and business partner John Tennent purchased the historic site, with plans to refurbish and reopen the pub in 2016. Locals were rest assured that the pub will stay true to its roots, with Tom and John saying they endeavoured to “retain the soul, and respect the history of The Rose.”
With all the soul and passion you could hope for, there were no two better people to reinvent the Rose. On a trip to the Barossa Valley together a few years ago, the long-time mates decided on opening a wine bar in Melbourne.
The result: Harry & Frankie in Port Melbourne – home to more than 700 varieties of wine and a small food menu. The bar has had great success at its Bay Street location with customers appreciating the family friendly atmosphere and lack of pretension. The success of their bayside venture and their continuing passion for wine, led Tom and John to purchase the Rose Hotel with the plan of creating “two businesses in one” – a pub downstairs with a second wine bar upstairs.
The pair planned to have the downstairs pub renovation completed by February 2016, however it has taken a little longer than expected. “The opening was delayed somewhat as we realised that for the renovation to have longevity, we had to put the work in now,” said Tom. This work has included ripping out the original bar and carpet, taking out major walls, polishing the concrete floors and adding a tile border around the bar.
“We weren’t necessarily trying to create a beautiful space, but a space that conveys the ethos and culture of the pub,” explained Tom. “In the past five years, the pub has lost a little bit of its sense of community and what we want is not to ‘reinvent the wheel’, but just to do things better and get that sense of community back.”
Tom and John wanted to ensure that The Rose could continue to be a much-loved venue for customers across Melbourne. The modernised space includes a plasma screen in the front room for footy fans and a relaxed family friendly bistro in the back room fitted with a comfortable bar.
They worked with Executive Chef, Sam Webb (formally of Stoke Bar & Kitchen), to design a menu that uses quality ingredients to create simple, traditional pub meals. Rather than turn The Rose into a “gastronomical pub,” the team is instead focusing on doing the classics well and maintaining The Rose’s reputation as a “country pub in the city.”
In terms of drink options, The Rose sticks to tradition, with a limited wine list (so as not to intimidate) and the favourites, including Carlton Draught, on tap. However, the boys have introduced a range of craft beers in order to appeal to a wider ranging customer base.
With the pub up and running, Tom and John continued to work on what would become Harry & Frankie’s younger brother/sister upstairs – Harry & Frankie Fitzroy. The new wine bar has a separate entrance to the pub and follows the same philosophy as the Port Melbourne venue – no fuss, excellent wine and a casual menu that can be paired with the wines on offer. The new venue also has an ever-changing wine list that includes more than 400 wines at any one time.
While similar to its sibling, Tom is quick to assure that H&F Fitzroy is not a full replica of the Port Melbourne venue. “We wanted to make sure the new venue was different to what we’ve got – not just a carbon copy,” Tom explained.
H&F Fitzroy has a welcoming feel and the bar, tables and seating make use of Australian timber. Unlike the Port Melbourne space, H&F Fitzroy has four distinct seating areas, two of which have communal tables with one of those tables in the wine room. The boys have also made use of the terrace upstairs, with outdoor seating on the deck and French doors that open out.
With the “two businesses in one” idea in mind, the wine bar upstairs and the pub downstairs are their own entities, but with a far more extensive wine list on offer at H&F Fitzroy, customers at the pub are encouraged to pop upstairs to choose a bottle to have with dinner.
The amount of love being poured into the revamp of the Rose Hotel means both spaces are definitely crowd pleasers.