The iconic Robert Peel hotel building, located up the road from Queen Victoria Market in North Melbourne, has lived many lives over its 113 years. Locals may remember it as student haunt The Keeper’s Arms or perhaps The Crimean – an Eastern European-themed vodka bar whose Cyrillic signs can still be found scrawled across the front bar.
Most of the other decor is long gone, though. Since Phil Gijsbers (Small Print, Green Acre, Rusty’s, East End) and Neil Mills took over, they’ve stripped the place down, allowing its natural beauty to shine. They did, however, maintain a few throwbacks – including the venue’s most recent name: Bobbie Peels.
“We tried to leave a little nod to all its previous iterations and reflect where North Melbourne has come now,” says Gijsbers. “The pub has been awesome for so long. We thought we’d bring it up to speed.”
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Under the guidance of architects and designers Margo Studio, the once-covered walls are now mostly bare except for the burnt-orange tile backsplash. A juxtaposition of antique and hand-blown glass lights by Mark Douglass Design softly illuminate the rooms and accentuate the moulded metal ceilings. Separating the bar and the booths is a walk-through archway that doubles as an intimate date-night nook.
“The doorway was closed but we decided to open it back up again,” says Mills.
Prior to the takeover, Bobbie Peels had a big craft beer focus that the duo (who previously owned Burnley Brewing in Richmond) were keen to uphold. But what they’re really excited about is the opportunity to roll out some rare and boutique wines.
“We’ve got some cool back-vintage wines,” says Gijsbers. “You might find a couple of early 1990s Barossa shirazes.” There’s also a decent selection of new-school pours and magnums for those after a bit of theatrics.
Hand-rolled pasta dominates the food menu, but you’ll also find chilli mussels with house-made bread; cotechino (spiced pork sausage) with relish; and rotating specials made with whatever’s fresh at the market.
Gijsbers and Mills are hoping to foster a mature and consistent offering at Bobbie Peels – but if you wanted to throw an event here, the newly renovated upstairs function space can fit up to 100 people.
351 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
(03) 9329 3353
Tues to Wed 4pm–late
Thu to Sun 12pm–late