Dom's Social Club Is the New Three-Level Pizzeria, Pool Room and Rooftop Bar in Melbourne's CBD
The former Peaches and Cheek space has been transformed into a laidback spot that feels distinctly like an Italian social club.
February 17, 2021
Just two years ago, the team behind Dexter and Takeaway Pizza, Adam Goldblatt and brothers Tom and Sam Peasnell, opened an impressive multi-storey venue on Swanston Street. That three-level venue had three different concepts: the meat-focused Cheek and the pink-hued Peaches, which was split into a cocktail bar and a rooftop venue. During the pandemic, the venues were forced to close for ten months, which gave the trio time to think about exactly what they wanted for the well-loved CBD spot.
With their ever-popular venues Takeaway Pizza and Dexter thriving up north, they felt it was time to bring some of the Preston neighbourhood essence to the city. The result is Dom's Social Club: an authentic, casual experience that people could return to time and time again.
"We wanted the experience of Dom's to be more local, and more social," Sam told Concrete Playground. "It was hard managing three different concepts across the levels, and we wanted to get back to chatting with our customers at the bar and really offering that old-school hospitality vibe."
Instead of three separate concepts, the venue focuses on three key elements: classic drinks, handmade pizza and charcuterie to match. And, while Sam agrees it was a big move to shift from the refined meat-focused offering of Cheek to pizzas, the team unanimously agreed it was the right decision.
"Our pizzas are a three-day slow ferment sourdough," Sam explained. "We dimple our pizzas, too, instead of stretching them, so they keep the air and puff up like a focaccia."
"Adam was itching to get back to making pizzas after his stint at Homeslice in London, which started out at a market making woodfired pizzas off the back of a trailer and became a phenomenon."
The pizza marinara is a favourite on the Dom's menu. It's made with tomato sugo, confit garlic and Alto Robust olive oil from the Great Diving Range in NSW. Pressed like a wine, the olive skin and pips are included for a flavoursome and textural result.
With Tom's background in meats, plus a lockdown to perfect his salami making, the restaurant's pizza toppings have no shortage of cured, salty flavours. Choose from the mortadella with fermented honey and thyme, the diavola with hot salami and fefferoni peppers and even the pork cheek and pumpkin number. There's a selection of veggie options, too, including the pea and pecorino pizza with confit garlic, mint, lemon.
"Pizza is so easy to cater to everyone," Sam said. "We use all Aussie ingredients, accommodate heaps of dietaries and we'd like to think, now, this is a venue everybody can come to eat, drink a bottle of wine, go upstairs for cocktails and charcuterie on the rooftop, and come back down to play pool later in the evening. We want people to utilise all three levels, and to stay and enjoy."
Moving to the second floor of Dom's, you'll see the dry-aged meats in the fridge, plus a moodier RSL-like space. Stools and a free-to-use pool table fill the room, while glass cabinets packed with spirits surround the bar. Facebook Marketplace and op shop finds decorate the walls, ranging from fishing memorabilia to old beer posters and everything else you might spot in an Aussie dad's work shed. "We're obsessed with old nostalgic things," Sam said.
A lot of the renovation was also done by the owners themselves, with the help of their families. "Like our other venues, we thought if we built it we'd be connected to it," Sam said. "So, we had working bees with Mum and Dad, hand-stained the wood that goes across levels, tiled the floor ourselves and fitted out all the decor. It's made the space much more casual and we hope the focus is on the good drinks and good food, not so much about the interior — like what Peaches was before."
With Sam in charge of the drinks at Dom's, the menu is a healthy mix of classic cocktails, local spirits and a dedicated lambrusco page, with the mission to change perspectives on the infamous sparkling red wine.
"We've drunk too much bad lambrusco," Sam said. "In the past, it's been sweet, mass produced and not good. But, our lambrusco is seriously good with pizza."
"We love Italian grape varieties because they're really good for the climate and use less water," Sam continued. "Plus, everyone has a nostalgic story to tell about lambrusco and I love the idea of that being a conversation starter between one of us and a customer over the bar."
On the cocktail menu, Sam recommends Dom's Aperitivo to start the evening. It's made with Italicus (a citrusy, floral liqueur), dry vermouth and Four Pillars olive leaf gin, which is then shaken with citrus and served with a lemon twist or olives. Soon, Sam plans to have a coffee machine up and running for affogato served with home-made ice cream and Australian amaro.
"We think genuine, local experiences are really important, especially after lockdown," Sam said. "All of the owners work on the floor, the staff helps develop all the recipes and we hope people will... stick around in our new space we're really proud of."
Find Dom's Social Club at 301, Swanston Street, Melbourne from 5pm–1am Wednesday–Saturday.
Images: Julia Sansone