When I was at uni I lived in a share house in Napier street Fitzroy. The only toilet was outdoors (not great in a Melbourne Winter) but on the upside the rent was affordable and we had The Rose as our local pub. The Rose is a brilliant little backstreet pub. It’s as unpretentious as you can get in Fitzroy with the footy always playing on the TV, a trivia night which we used to attend weekly and pretty forgettable food.
Times have changed since those share house years* and while downstairs at The Rose remains the same, upstairs is now a fine dining restaurant with serious ambitions. The owners have installed Sam Pinzone as head chef who is ex Rockpool and Marcus Radny as sommelier who is ex Vue du Monde. The space is all dark wooden floorboards, bentwood chairs and moody lighting. The menu is also contemporary – running to a brief one page in length it simply lists ingredients leaving a certain element of surprise as to what each dish will actually be like. There’s not a parma in sight – instead all the dishes are for sharing like a Middle Eastern inspired salad of eggplant, dates and chickpeas topped with fetta and herbs ($16).
A humble sounding tagine dotted with yams, carrots and dates ($24) was a delicious mix of sweet and savoury with the sauces flavouring the couscous. Pinzone uses some unusual combinations of ingredients like teaming venison with cocoa, blueberries and cherries ($39). This may sound more dessert than dinner but the sweet accompaniments really highlighted the delicate flavour of the meat.
It’s interesting food but The Rose Upstairs does lack a bit of buzz especially in comparison to the pub which is always pumping. Despite this I’m sure it will appeal to some of Fitzroy’s newer inhabitants, the ones with money and luxuries like indoor toilets.
*This may have been about 10 years ago but feels like yesterday!