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.

Having first opened its doors back in 1855, the building which Captain Melville calls home is one of the oldest licensed venues and comfortably among the oldest buildings in Melbourne’s CBD. 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 at the start of 2013. 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 pub’s booth-filled front bar greets all those who walk through its French doors, while towards the back a separate dining area inhabits an open space where long rows of tables await those planning a long meal.

Those two areas are key to explaining a pub which tends to take its food and booze just as seriously as each other. The menu is geared towards restaurant quality pub fare with a particular focus on sustainable food sourced from local producers.

Most of the Melville’s 14 taps rotate heavily through a broad swathe of Australian craft breweries. Local Melbourne breweries like Stomping Ground and KAIJU! appear alongside the likes of Hobart’s Moo Brew and Byron Bay's Stone & Wood. The decision to stick with the locals is driven by a desire to serve the beer as fresh as possible; small but regular orders are made for the same reason – to ensure beer isn't sat around ageing awaiting a free tap. Meanwhile, anyone looking for a break from beer would do well to head upstairs to Lock & 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, creating a regular stream of lunchtime and after work crowds while the ever-growing number of apartments rising around the building contribute plenty of regulars too.

Completing the picture is a front facing beer garden on a plant-filled patio in one of the CBD’s quieter streets, a location that 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

Name
Captain Melville
Address

34 Franklin Street
Melbourne
VIC 3000

Phone
(03) 9663 6855
Website
Hours

Midday to 11pm

Current Crafty Cabal offers

$7.50 schooners every Thursday

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