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Poodle Is Fitzroy's New Two-Storey Bistro and Art Deco Bar Headed Up by a Former Marion Chef

Serving up spanner crab vol-au-vents, prawn cocktails and truffle-loaded spatchcock in a moody space on Gertrude Street.
By Cordelia Williamson
July 07, 2020
By Cordelia Williamson
July 07, 2020

If you thought Melbourne's hospo scene stood still when COVID-19 hit, think again. Bars shifted to delivering cocktails and many venues helped out those doing it tough by setting up soup kitchens and whipping up free meals for out-of-work hospo staff. The top restaurant in the country — Attica — even shook up its usual fine diner and launched a bake shop pop-up and home food offering. Some restaurants threw caution to the wind and actually opened during the pandemic. Rocco's Bologna Discoteca, an unapologetically kitsch takeaway-only sanga pop-up behind a boarded-up shopfront, was one of them. Now, taking over the Gertrude Street digs — sans scaffolding — is Poodle Bar & Bistro by the same fun-loving crew.

Originally set to open in the Fitzroy space over the Easter long weekend, plans swiftly shifted when restaurants, bars and cafes had to close their doors in a bid to contain COVID-19. Instead of calling it quits, though, Chef Josh Fry (Marion and Cumulus Inc) turned part of the newly renovated venue into a sandwich shop. Now that most Melbourne restaurants are open for dine-in once again, the OG plan is back in full swing. Poodle is the first venture by husband and wife duo Zoë Rubino and Emilio Scalzo, with Fry still heading up the kitchen — but don't expect the same food as Rocco's.

Derek Swalwell

Step inside the double-fronted venue and you'll find much more than a deli and sandwich counter. The interior, designed by local firm Bergman & Co, has leather banquettes, art-adorned walls, dark timber accents and an art deco-inspired bar — think a much moodier The Grand Budapest Hotel and you're partway there. Downstairs houses the 40-seat dining room, public bar and large sunny courtyard; upstairs houses a cocktail bar with a roaring fire and private dining room.

Instead of picking up a NY-style meatball sub, fried bologna, bone marrow garlic bread and a heap of deli supplies to-go, you'll now be sitting in to feast. Created to hero local farmers and sustainably sourced produce, Fry's menu is inspired by classic European fare, with nods to the mid-century hotels of Europe.

Expect dishes like prawn cocktails, vol-au-vents filled with spanner crab, taramasalata and Yarra Valley salmon roe, and charred pencil leeks with tarragon vinaigrette to start. Then, opt for the spatchcock with braised Tuscan cabbage, Ballarat truffles and jus or the potato and celeriac pavé served with aged sheep milk custard and a watercress and shallot salad. If you're still craving a Rocco's sanga, there's the Poodle club sandwich with ham hock terrine, crispy chicken skin, tarragon mayonnaise, tomato and iceberg lettuce, served with a side of salt and vinegar crisps.

Emilio Scalzo

For drinks, expect a concise (but impressive) wine list, featuring Australian, French and Italian drops, plus a range of brews, amaros and cocktails. There's the Wet Poodle, with vodka, dry vermouth and pickled onion; the White Ferrari, a concoction of Cocchi americano, gin and Lillet Blanc; and a twist on the classic French 75, the Loire 75 with Vouvray sparkling, gin and lemon.

Poodle is currently offering a $70 'sneak peek' set menu, with a la carte available from Sunday, July, 19.

Poodle Bar & Bistro is located at 81–83 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy and is currently open from 4pm–midnight Tuesday–Thursday, 11am–midnight Friday and Saturday, and 11am–6pm on Sundays.

Venue images: Derek Swalwell. Food images: Emilio Scalzo.


Until at least Wednesday, July 29, stay-at-home orders have been reintroduced in 12 Melbourne postcodes, which means their residents can only leave for one of four reasons: work or school, care or care giving, daily exercise or food and other essentials. For more information, head to the DHHS website.

Published on July 07, 2020 by Cordelia Williamson
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