For a new pub on a prime piece of Fitzroy real estate, The Stone Hotel doesn't particularly feel very Fitzroy. Which isn't a bad thing — it's just a thing. In renovating the old Cape Lounge, the Tom Tschuis (both father and son share the same name) removed internal walls and some of the roof to transform the building on the corner of Johnston and Brunswick streets into the high ceilinged, spacious and somewhat minimalist venue they've reincarnated as The Stone Hotel.
And as you would expect from this part of town, there is the exposed brick, white-walled and industrial steel beams we've come to know and love, and ironic moustaches and sleeve tattoos abound. But it is perhaps just too brightly lit, too vague in its intentions and what kind of bar it wants to be. It's just a little hard to know who they are catering for.
But having only been open since the start of June, Tom (the younger of the two) says they are taking a relaxed approach to finding their feet. The Stone Hotel, while not wanting to be known as a gastropub, wants to serve great craft beer and good food. They have certainly nailed the craft beer part of the equation with two by ten taps pouring a rotating array of craft brews from Parrot Dog, 4 Pines, Sample and other well-received beers. Not a wine bar, the wine list is small with only three choices offered by the glass in both the white and the red sections.
The menu, by head chef Luke Eckersall from The Farm Cafe and Ladro, is a work in two parts: a selection of share plates and a seasonal 'Winter Warmers' menu, which offers some hearty slow-cooked meat and vegan dishes. The braised beef cheeks on mash were tender and full of pull-apart tastiness, offset with a garnish of pickled vegetables. The sharing side of the menu features smaller offerings of oysters or prawns or crunchy crumbed cheddar and pickled walnut croquettes through to larger options, such as the slow cooked lamb ribs or the sirloin. Eckersall's signature dish — bacon doughnuts with whipped bay leaf butter — have been popular, which, when you think about it, is hardly surprising in this doughnut-crazed town. There's also a burger section, with both traditional meat and vegan options. The cheeseburger is a favourite here, and while the patty could do with more flavour and substance, it still satisfies as a standard burger with a serving of fat chips.
Up top is a 33-square-metre first floor beer garden, which, with its location on Brunswick Street, should prove a drawcard as the weather gets warmer. If you're looking for a cosy dining experience with great food and service, you might be better off elsewhere. But if you're after a night out with craft beer, interesting bar snacks and rooftop possibilities, The Stone Hotel is for you.