The Builders Arms Hotel
211 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, VIC
03 9417 7700
This year the historic Builders Arms Hotel in Fitzroy celebrates its 150th year. The essence remains unchanged, but in new hands, the building has been lovingly restored. In 2012 new owners, Andrew McConnell, Josh Murphy and Anthony Hammond, became custodians of the hotel which was famous for its social and political gatherings in the 1940s through to the 1980s.
Anthony has worked extensively in pubs and bars, but for Andrew and Josh this was their first foray into pubs. This exciting combination of talents oversaw the transformation into a contemporary hotel, complete with a pub, bistro, garden, private dining room and prix fixe restaurant called ‘Moon Under Water’.
The name was taken from the George Orwell 1946 essay, ‘The Moon Under Water’, which describes the 10 attributes a pub required to get his perfect score. His local pub, The Moon Under Water, scored an excellent 8/10 with Orwell wondering if there was any pub that could possibly score higher.
Located in the heart of the building, and clearly close to the owners’ hearts, the restaurant has been successful from day one, winning the award for the hottest Victorian restaurant in The Australian Hot 50 restaurant awards 2012 only six weeks after opening.
Moon Under Water takes reservations for dinner Wednesday to Sunday and for lunch on Sundays. Each week features a different, seasonally chosen four-course menu with extra courses available. Upon request each course is thoughtfully paired with delicious wines. A great deal of pride and effort has gone into the wine list, and the waiters are truly passionate about their wine knowledge.
The bistro takes reservations for lunch and dinner every day with shared appetisers and entrees such as Salt water duck and mustard quince and a whipped cod roe that is to die for. Main courses are hearty with a strong focus on dry aged, grass fed beef from Cape Grim in Tasmania. Prior to his involvement in the Builders Arms, Andrew opened Golden Fields in St. Kilda, Cumulus Inc. in Flinders Lane and Cutler & Co. also on Gertrude Street, Fitzroy. In addition to the many accolades these diverse restaurants have won, Andrew also won the award for Hottest Chef of the year at The Australian Hot 50 Restaurant Awards 2012.
In 2006 Josh became part of the opening team of Andrew’s much-lauded Three, One, Two restaurant in Carlton, where he worked his way to the position of Head Chef. It was amongst this highly energetic and tight kitchen team that Josh became entrenched in a culture of creativity and collaboration.
In 2008 he was selected to head the kitchen team for the opening of McConnell’s hugely successful and frenetic-paced Cumulus Inc. Josh was recently awarded Young Chef of the Year by The Age Good Food Guide 2012 – a major industry award that recognised his poise, professionalism and the commitment he has shown to his craft.
Today Josh is Head Chef and part owner of the pub. His commitment to seasonal and fresh produce is evident in his menu and from where he sources his ingredients. Much of the produce comes from two Tooborac farms, located about two hours from Melbourne. McIvor farm provides Berkshire pork, which is usually slow-roasted and often available on the menu. The sorrel in the bistro’s near-famous fish pie comes from Glenora Heritage Produce, which also provides broad beans, rhubarb and anything else that’s of interest and in season.
The menu for the private dining room is also under Josh’s expert direction. The intimate space comfortably seats up to 18 guests, overlooks the rooftops of Gertrude Street and even has its own vinyl collection and player!
And if you just want to pop in for a beer, the Builders Arms is the place to raise a glass. Cricketers Arms Lager is made in Melbourne using sun-dried Australian malt, and the crisp and light 4 Pines Kolsch from Manly, NSW, couldn’t be more refreshing after a day of work or travel. While you’re at it, marvel at the history of the 150-year-old building and how many cheers have come before yours.