Almost two years after a fire destroyed much of the building, one of Melbourne’s best loved pubs today returns to full operation. Even if you've never been inside, anyone who has driven through Fitzroy North will know the Fitzroy Pinnacle, the iconic 1880s building wedged into an impossibly narrow corner on St George's Road.
The former land lease office and post office’s prominent tower, lion statues and columns form an unmistakable part of the inner north suburb; inside the 1880s building, the historic look, offbeat interior and dedication to good booze, live music and quality food make it a case study for anyone wanting to understand why Melbourne has a reputation for great pubs.
But since November 2015, when self-combusting tea towels sparked a fire that tore through the kitchen, The Pinny hadn't been quite itself. While the doors reopened in early 2016, the restoration of the highly rated kitchen has taken far longer, thanks largely to the glacial pace of insurance and Heritage Victoria.
While the kitchen’s reopening will likely come as welcome news for Fitzroy locals (and many from further afield) few could possibly be as relieved as Leigh Wilkes, who’s run the pub since 2006.
“It’s just been so long getting it rebuilt,” he says. “Since they’ve started, it's only taken three months but it’s been that waiting for the insurance companies and Heritage Victoria.”
Returning to the kitchen is head chef Tim Breden, whose penchant for modern Australian fare with a multicultural twist helped ensure the Pinny became as well known for its menu as its beer list and music.
Restoration work also impacted the pub's live music calendar, with the stage in the beer garden – one of those hidden urban corners that deliver a happy surprise for first time visitors – kept out of action while the kitchen was completed.
Over a decade ago, it was the prospect of a beer garden where locals could drink and enjoy live music that spurred Leigh’s interest in the place. While myriad newcomers have come and gone since then, the Pinnacle remains a place for locals – including those who have moved in since the fire.
“Obviously, there are a lot of people that have been waiting a long time to come back but I’m hoping to attract new people as well,” Leigh says.
“It’s been hard not being able to showcase the venue like I want to. But once we’re back open with a kitchen then we have a better chance of keeping [people] coming back.”
So, as Leigh, Tim and the team prepare to send out the first meals in nearly two years, there’s a quiet optimism surrounding one of the most welcome rebirths of early spring – and a hope that, soon, it will feel like good booze, great food and gigs never left this small corner of Fitzroy North.
About the author: Will Ziebell is a history graduate who finds the greatest use for his degree is telling anecdotes to anyone who will listen. Often they involve beer, especially when hosting Melbourne Brewery Tours. He can be found on Instagram and Twitter.