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PUB OF THE YEAR 2016: Fitzroy Town Hall Hotel

Article image for PUB OF THE YEAR 2016: Fitzroy Town Hall Hotel

Today marks the 21st time I’ve announced the DeBortoli Pub of the Year, and the standard of the final three pubs has never been higher. During 2016, a total of 39 pubs were reviewed, 22 for the first time.

The three best, Prince Albert, Williamstown, Woodlands Coburg, and Fitzroy Town Hall all have significant points of difference as far as the food/drink offer goes, but the common threads of a great pub as a place of comfort, community and welcome are there in spades. All three pubs offer so much to their locals.

To everyone that contacted me via email and gave suggestions/comments, many thanks again. By estimation, I have done about 700 reviews (and in excess of 400 pubs)  since 1996. Please continue to offer suggestions and feel free to disagree with any assessment.

All the reviews are up in the lifestyle section of 

My email is

Before announcing this year’s DeBortoli Best Pub for 2016, some comments:


It has to taste fresh, clean, have a good head and above all, retain the lace on the inside. You?d think it?s simple – It?s not judging by the varying offers, with many arriving as flat as a Carter?s hat. Honorable mentions to the Highlands Hotel, Craigieburn and Spread Eagle Richmond.

BEST COMMERCIAL: Prince Albert, Williamstown. 7oz/200ml glass.  Beautiful.

BEST CRAFT;  Mrs. Parmas, CBD. Moon Dog ?Old Mate? Pale. Excellent (and thanks for offering a taster team before trying. Great Hospitality).

BEST WINE: American Hotel, Creswick. Blue Pyrenees Richardson Cab Merlot. $46/bottle. Definite share but averaging at $9/glass, you won?t drink fairer or better at that price in a pub/restaurant..

Honorable mention to the Malvernvale Hotel, for making available numerous bottles in the very rare mid $30 category

BEST LEAP OF FAITH: There were two pubs that really surprised me this year as to how good the offer was. Braybrook Hotel has had plenty spent on it but to maximum effect. Buffet is not my go in a pub, but more fair play to them, the quality was terrific. Black Horse Bulla, was the other. A tired old venue has been given a real lift, with a can do attitude that is winning new friends. Well done to the team there.

Some observations about food and drink in pubs:

  • The fully plated meal  – steak/fish under $25 is a rare beast. Cost of business at all levels, means that if you want to eat ?cheap? and ?well? then it is  $30+,
  • Chicken parma.  Outside of the mass produced, a home made half decent with a standard salad and chips, then it is north of $25.
  •  But food bargains, mid week, still offer very fair.  Check your local to see what is on offer. Remember if it is not much good when paying full whack, then it?s unlikely to be better with a 5/10 dollar shave
  • However, it is the cost of wine by the bottle, that had the biggest leap in 2016. Standard bottles in the mid $30s, jumped into the mid $40s.  You know the names, but save for a rare exception, this is the norm for easily obtained popular brands. For some reason I thought the rule of thumb was 100% markup on full RRP, maybe the standard is 150%. (Happy to hear why from an insider).  Maybe the cost of food can?t go higher and this is a way of sustaining a reasonable bottom line.


Prince Albert, Williamstown.  Original score 15/20.  Reviewed score 15.5/20. Just a great old fashioned pub, fair pricing at all levels and a fantastic welcome. Best Carlton D in Melbourne for 2016. Father/Son team.  A beauty.

Woodlands Hotel, Coburg. Original score 15.5/20.  Reviewed score 16/20. Unique fitout, trailblazer for Craft beer, firing on all cylinders. Excellent food, curry a specialty, best in the area by plenty.

THE WINNER: Fitzroy Town Hall Hotel. Score 17.5/20 both times.

It could easily have been pub of the year 5 years ago. Had some aliases over the journey, including the Wine Pub (yes).

Two levels of pricing – bar/restaurant and both deliver in spades. Above all, this is not a restaurant in a pub, although the food could easily pass for such. It is a genuine local, with a local?s heart and Sean Donovan is the  equal of any cook in a pub in my time of talking pubs.

Beer?s excellent, fabulous front bar, but equally wonderful dining areas at the rear, the Fitzroy Town Hall is the DeBortoli Pub of the Year.

Click PLAY below to see the the winner crowned!

DeBortoli Pub of the Year Honour Roll – 1996-2016

2016   Fitzroy Town Hall                      Fitzroy

2015   Tinamba                                   Tinamba

2014   Plough                                      Trentham

2013   Royal                                        Clifton Hill

2012   Wayside Inn                             Sth Melbourne

2011    Lincoln Hotel                           Carlton

2010    Terminus Hotel                        Clifton Hill

2009    Grand Hotel –                          Richmond

2008    Station/Carringbush              Footscray/Abbotsford

2007    Bouzy Rouge                          Richmond

2006    The Albion                               Port Melbourne

2005    Metropolitan/Brandon Hotel   Nth Melbourne/Carlton

2004    The Beach Hotel                     Albert Park

2003    Court House Hotel                  North Melbourne

2002    London Tavern                        Richmond

2001    Doyle’s/Vine                            Mentone/Abbotsford

 2000   Royal Park                              North Melbourne

1999    Emerald                                   Sth Melbourne

1998    Clare Castle/O?Connells         Carlton/Sth Melbourne

1997    Spencer                                   West Melbourne

1996    All Nations                               Richmond

In closing, thanks again to Vince Gurcuillo and the team at DeBortoli, sponsors of the segment since 1991 and to Neil Mitchell for putting up with this for the last 21 years.

I look forward to presenting the segment again in 2017.

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