Captain Melville

His exploits may not have led to the sort of national obsession afforded fellow bushranger Ned Kelly, yet there was a time when Francis Melville’s life certainly captured the imagination of the young colony. The self-titled “Captain” spent much of his career as a bushranger pretending to be a gentleman before holding up coaches full on their return from the goldfields.

The year in which Melville was eventually arrested, 1853, was also the year the first stones were laid for Mac’s Hotel on Melbourne’s Franklin Street. Much like the supposed gentleman bushranger, it’s a building that possesses its own quiet charm.

The building that Captain Melville calls home is the oldest continually licensed venue in Melbourne’s CBD and is comfortably among the city’s oldest. The back of the original coach house was even heavily fortified to safeguard the gold of those passing through – a measure likely inspired by Captain Melville and his ilk.

Today, many generations on from those horse and carriage days, the Franklin Street building has undergone many changes before being transformed into its current guise late in 2012. The modern Melville still retains much of its classical appeal, with the grand bluestone building appearing as though it’s been transported directly from a country outpost on the way to the goldfields.

Inside, its expansive interior is no less impressive: the venue’s booth-filled front bar greets all those who walk through its French doors, while towards the back, the impressive Indoor Courtyard is filled with beautiful greenery against a backdrop of original bluestone.

Those two areas are key to explaining that at its heart, Captain Melville remains Melbourne’s dedicated food and liquor merchants that takes both just as seriously as each other. The menu’s focus is on Victorian produce and changes regularly with the seasons with plenty of it often sourced from the Queen Vic Market that’s located a short stroll away. In many ways, market days and impressive bluestone buildings feel like a relic of a former era but in the case of Captain Melville, those important parts of a city’s heart beat on. 

When it comes to beer, Melville’s 14 taps feature a broad swathe of beers from Australia’s craft breweries, half of which rotate regularly so expect something new to be pouring each time you walk inside. The Captain’s Table seasonal dining experience perfectly captures the shared approach towards beer and food, with guests enjoying multiple courses alongside curated beer pairings.

Meanwhile, anyone looking for a break from beer would do well to head upstairs to Loch & Key, the late-night cocktail bar that's a particular favourite among Melbourne’s hospo community.

Captain Melville’s location on the CBD’s northern boundary also means it's surrounded by offices and apartments, creating a regular stream of lunchtime and after-work crowds. Without fail, those groups are eager to meet at the Melville in much the same way Melburnians did in the city’s early days, although we doubt the food and drinks on offer were quite comparable to what’s served today.

Completing the picture is a front-facing beer garden on a plant-filled patio that was built back in 1914. In those days, Melbourne wasn’t nearly as busy but given Franklin remains one of the CBD’s quieter and calmer streets, the location adds to the feeling of being transported to another place and time: a place where bushrangers may have roamed and the beer was all local.

The gentleman thief would be proud.

Will Ziebell

Captain Melville

34 Franklin Street
VIC 3000

(03) 9663 6855
Open Hours

Mon to Thurs: 12pm to 10pm
Fri & Sat: 12pm to 1am
Sunday: 2pm to 10pm

This is a directory listing. To find out more, head here

Regularly featured brewers