Melbourne’s Amphlett House lives up to its rock star name – a taphouse pulling cool ales, cocktails with a native Oz spin and a sharp menu

Tucked away at the top end of Melbourne’s Little Bourke Street, in the heart of the theatre district and just a wizard-wand throw from Princess Theatre for Harry Potter fans, Amphlett House is a Taphouse with a gastropub menu and a little Brit nostalgia.

But let’s start with the drinks (don’t we always?). On-tap beverages run from quirky ales – such as Young Henry’s Motorcycle Oil, an American-style porter to a Co-Conspirators Hazy IPA with mandarin, orange, pine and coconut. A flight might be the way to go if you’re not quite sure, or you’re just beer-curious.  Sparkling ciders and even some wine is on tap.

Andrea Gualdi, a former World Class Bartender of the Year and F&B Manger at on-trend Ovolo Hotels (the Taphouse is part of the adjacent Ovolo Laneways hotel) has masterminded the drinks list.

Gualdi is a cocktail maestro and weaves native Australian touches into some old-school favourites – we’re talking a wattleseed negroni, a gin cocktail with mountain honey and finger lime daiquiri.

Of course, if you’re content in your comfort zone – no shame – order up a straight beer, or a decent wine by the glass or bottle, because there are some surprisingly good drops on the list.

The bar snacks rock

If you’re in for a drink, you should definitely be in for the bar snacks. Olives marinated in star anise and orange peel, puffy­–crispy beef crackers with chilli salt (totally moreish) and fried zucchini flowers with Sicilian caponata, to name a few.  Or perhaps the chef’s special Harissa spiced fish Scotch egg, with Romesco sauce, a spicy twist on an English pub classic.

In fact, it was asking about the Scotch egg that got us talking with the chef.

While British-born, Australian-based restaurant-savvy star-chef Ian Curley, who also oversees catering at Ovolo Hotels, has devised the menu, the day-to-day biz is helmed by recently arrived young Brit chef Ben Green.

Ben popped out of the kitchen to chat about the menu and his background cheffing around the world for Formula 1 teams – among other cool kitchen gigs.

Ian Curley describes the food as ‘humble with big flavours’.  It’s the quality of the cooking and unexpected twists and riffs – just like a Divinyls rock concert ­– that take it up a few notches.

The main deal

Starters such as the buttery Bone Marrow Toast and cheesy Crab Rarebit are both a nod to English favourites, but with a fresh accent.  

The Chicken Kiev was faultless ­ – rolled, crumbed, fried, molten butter oozing out – and sharply presented with a creamy cauliflower puree and glossy wilted greens. What’s not to love?

Lamb shoulder shepherd’s pie (and there’s gravy!) brings a nostalgic touch .

Mussels with chilli

For seafood fans the Mussels in Chilli are a star turn. Briny fresh, layered into a bowl with tomato, fresh basil and garlicky aioli on the side.

Ever-so-slightly crisped gnocchi is panfried golden and sits in a sea of pureed squash with mini cubes of roasted squash, scattered with candied walnuts and fried sage leaves.

The hand-cut chips with house-made aioli are a must.  But there is always room for pudding, and the tart of the day hits the sweet spot. It’s a winning combo of crisp pastry, just-a-little-sharp lemon, mascarpone and summery raspberry on the side. To be honest, the Espresso Martini Tiramisu looked pretty good, but you can only have so much of a good thing.

Amphlett House has a very mellow, and welcoming, vibe. Maybe it’s the sleek, understated interior, with its blond wood tables, slim line venetians and olive green leather banquettes. There’s a bit of an 80s thing going on here. Maybe it’s the friendly staff.

Whatever, Amphlett House is perfectly placed for a pre- or post-theatre drink or meal. It’s open for lunch, a refreshing craft beer, daquiri or chardonnay after work, or a weekend get-together with friends. Just the ticket.

Amphlett House – TaphouseLaneways by Ovolo, 19 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne. Open Mon-Sat 11.30 am – late. Sun 11.30 am 6.30 pm.

Check out their website for specials, such as the daily Happy Hour 4 – 6 pm on $5 Better Beer pints.

About the author

Margaret is a Melbourne-based slow traveller who loves exploring hotels from high end to quirky, cutting-edge design, quiet beaches and off-grid retreats. While she loves galleries, museums and the buzz of big cities, she is also often dreaming of Tulum or the Aeolian Islands. She packs light but always takes a book.


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