Truly old school pubs are difficult to find these days, especially in the inner city. Even venture out to the outer suburbs of Melbourne, if you dare, and you'll pay 19 bucks for a steak and chips and be assaulted on all sides by the relentless white noise of pokie machines.
There is a last bastion of this tradition in Fitzroy however, at the top end of the Brunswick Street precinct. The Royal Derby looks pretty similar to what it would have 30 years ago, and the vibe is similar too, friendly, relaxed and no pokies to be seen. Hurrah. Even the food prices aren't actually that far removed from what they would have been back then. But more on that shortly…
The first thing that strikes you when you walk in is that it's kinda dark in there, however definitely not in a gloomy, depressing or even scary way. If you don't like that, there's a beer garden out the back as well. There's plenty of quiet corners for a more intimate drink or chat, or you can get into the swing of things in a more central area, and watch the footy or whatever sport happens to be on. Posters of upcoming music and other events adorn the walls, everything from Creepshow at the Espy, to Jebediah to Hall and Oates to Pam Ayers. The pub has parma nights, trivia, shooters, this is mass appeal in a good, old fashioned manner.
The service is friendly, and there's plenty of great brews on tap, from your traditional Carlton to a Fat Yak. The menu is extensive, and has plenty for carnivores and herbivores alike. And the prices are incredible, with almost all mains in the $12-14 range. It makes you wonder how they can do it in this day and age.
They haven't skimped on quality or quantity either, despite the more than reasonable price tag. The food came out nice and quick, just the way you want. The nachos, priced and positioned on the menu as an entrée, is a full meal in itself, and would fill most average eaters alone. Very tasty too, with just the right amount of sour cream and guac, and a touch of jalapeño spice to them. A great way to start.
The fish and chips were superb. Each piece had more fish than batter, unlike some fish you have in other pubs or restaurants, and there's just the right amount of chunky chips. The salad is nice and fresh too.
Special mention must also be given to the vegetarian lasagna. It was undoubtedly the highest, most thickly layered slice of lasagna these eyes have ever seen. But full of fillings and flavour too, not just layer upon layer of pasta. The dish also featured chips and salad. Just enormous, this is food for hearty appetites.
Washed down with a Fat Yak and a Bulmers, this was an immensely satisfying feed for an absolute steal. This is superb pub fare, cooked and served the traditional way, that fills the belly like few other types of cuisine can.
Unfortunately their dessert menu is not underway yet, but the very friendly manager assured us this was coming very soon. Coffee too. We probably couldn't have fit any more in anyway.
This is a great pub, pure and simple. It has a bit of everything, and everything is nicely done. Race in to the Royal Derby in Fitzroy for an old school pub experience in the inner city.