Housed in the glorious, old, Brunswick General Post Office building, The Penny Black is a bar, dining venue and an essential part of Melbourne's live music scene.
It's recognisable along Sydney Road from the stone drinking fountain out the front, as well as its line of outdoor seating, which on a sunny afternoon, will be inhabited by many laid back pub patrons, soaking up the rays.
The Penny Black's front bar has a collection of dining table and tall benches throughout. There's a favoured corner with a huge, open fire place, crackling warmly through winter and a mixture of low coffee tables and well-worn lounge chairs.
A main stage in the bar, raised above the crowd hosts quality rock, alternative, blues, roots and folk acts. When a good band is on, the massive venue can quickly fill to become standing room only and transform a casual evening into energetic, wild night out.
Behind the main bar, there is a kind of retro room that makes for a good retreat when you want to get away from some of the noise of the bands. It has a second drinks service area, large group tables and another low sofa.
Although really, it doesn't matter where you sit because if you're taking a break from the tunes, you'll probably be focused on the generous food servings and cheap, pizza coming out of The Penny Black kitchen. Their menu has a great mixture of bistro style food and their prices are obscenely low, without short-changing you on the quality of the ingredients.
The pub specials are; Monday - $12 parmagiana, Tuesday - $6 pizzas, Wednesday - $12 steak, Thursday - $12 wagu beef or haloumi burger and Sunday – roast for $12.
The kitchen opens early so you can start your meal from 5pm onwards, making it perfect place to wind down after work. It might be deceptively quiet when you first enter but if you wander out back to the extensive beer garden, you're likely to find the place packed.
Split into three distinct sections, in the beer garden you'll be sitting at either the wooden deck area with built in bench seating, an astroturf lawn with long tables and a bamboo covered back wall or a more undercover, concrete floored marquee. There are a series of cosy booths as well, with gas-heaters that automatically turn on if it's a cold night, after they have sensed your movement at the table.
The bar staff at the Penny Black have an aloof coolness but you don't have to wait too long to be served. They'll pour you Carlton Draught, Wild Yak and Bulmer's Cider on tap, with dozens of other beers, wines and mixed drinks in the fridge.
The Penny Black attracts a varied crowd. Families eat there in the early afternoon, on Thursday nights you'll generally see a uni crowd and on a Saturday or Sunday during daylight hours, you'll feel like you're hanging around at a mate's BBQ, with folks in their mid 20s to mid 30s chillin' there over the weekend.
The Penny Black is open Monday to Thursday from 5pm until late and Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12pm until late. They keep their website up-to-date with a 'What's On' calendar so it's easy to keep track of who's playing there each night.
To get to the Penny Black, travel on a North Coburg No 19 tram, until Victoria Street. Take an Upfield train to Brunswick Station and walk over to Sydney Road or arrive by car (with a designated driver) and park behind the Duke of Edinburgh building. There are plenty of ATM's nearby.