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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Madame Brussels, Melbourne

Eclectic, quirky and devil-may-care, Melbourne is constantly full of welcome surprises.

Of course, unless luck happens to be in your favour, many of Melbourne's treasures are best-kept secrets known only by locals. For the casual tourist, it's likely you will walk by in complete oblivion and not even realise that you're missing the discreet entrances down alleys, hidden in basements or tucked away on the rooftops of city buildings.

It's with great fortune, then, that Billy and I have local expertise to draw on, with Iron Chef Shellie suggesting Madame Brussels as the perfect spot for a last-minute meet-up with herself and Adrian from Food Rehab, both Melbourne food bloggers.

The indoor parlour bar

The Bourke Street building, named the Spaghetti Tree, is otherwise non-descript, with only a small sign on the wall advising its presence. We take the stairs, ascending three flights up to the rooftop - it's only as we leave that I realise there's an elevator. Just when we think we've ascended the stairs in vain, we find ourselves ejected into a hubbub of people, all sipping on cocktails and laughing with what seems like nary a care in the world.

Astroturf in the indoor parlour

I have to blink and pause a moment to take in my surroundings. This burst of lightheaded surrealism is no doubt a result of the decor, mostly the indoor parlour in which we find ourselves standing. The parlour is covered incongruously with astroturf, a paved pathway leading us out toward a rooftop balcony that dazzles with sunshine. An eclectic mix of garden furniture is strewn throughout, and the utter bizarreness--of the carpet of grass inside a building, of a trellis and hedge-look backdrop to the internal bar--makes you feel like Alice in Wonderland, and you may find yourself giving in and smiling with ludicrous glee.


Whilst the bar is well-stocked with every liquor imaginable, most of the menu is devoted to cocktails, available in jugs for two (singles) or four (doubles), a reference to tennis that continues with the country club outfits worn by bar staff.

Warsaw Mule $50 for a "doubles" jug (four people)

In the shimmering heat, we order the Warsaw Mule, a refreshing concoction of vodka, ginger ale and mint. At $50 for a jug that doles out 5-6 wine glasses, it's not cheap, but patrons don't come for the value, they come for the atmosphere.

The Madame of Madame Brussels (left) greets a customer

The glaring sunshine can be harsh on the rooftop, but patrons can avail themselves of paper parasols, their bright colours and floral motifs only adding to the kitsch 1950s feel.

The French absinthe ritual, slowly dissolving a sugar cube with iced water

The staff are themselves a marvel, whether they're dressed in cinos and polo tops, knitted vests or terry towelling shorts, they flit discreetly through the crowd, taking orders or delivering drinks and snacks with an air of cool aplomb.

Polo shirt and chinos

Whilst some may think it camp and cheesy, we embrace its spirit of fun and cheekiness.

Delivering sandwiches

Pink polo shirts and knitted vests
should never be underestimated

Parasols maketh the party

View Larger Map
Madame Brussels on Urbanspoon

Madame Brussels
Level 3, 59-63 Bourke St, Melbourne, Victoria
Tel: +61 (03) 9662 2775

Opening hours:
Sunday to Wednesday 12pm-11pm
Thursday to Saturday 12pm-1am

Grab Your Fork attended the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival as a guest of Tourism Victoria. We visited Madame Brussels anonymously and paid for all drinks personally.

> Read the next Melbourne post (Lord of the Fries)
< Go back to the first Melbourne Food & Wine Festival 2010 post

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
MFWF World's Longest Lunch + Death by Chocolate at Koko Black
MFWF Edible Garden
20 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 3/18/2010 01:48:00 am


  • At 3/18/2010 7:39 am, Blogger Hannah said…

    I don't know if I can get on board with the waiters' outfits - not out of any dislike of them, but because my own lack-of-fashion-know-how would be bound to appear - but you got me with parasols. I've always wanted one of those!

  • At 3/18/2010 9:10 am, Anonymous JT @ areyouhungary said…

    Oh my weekend envy just grows, I'd heard so much about this Melb venue in the past! Am determined to go on my next visit!

  • At 3/18/2010 10:43 am, Anonymous billy@atablefortwo said…

    oh... my eyes!!! my eyes!! I like how you let me deal with the pink towel shorts in my post, good one helen! LOL

    there is one more "moscow" in there u need to change. :P

  • At 3/18/2010 11:23 am, Anonymous Patty said…

    Thanks for the "insider info" can't wait to check this place out!

  • At 3/18/2010 12:11 pm, Blogger Phuoc'n Delicious said…

    How cool! I like the ruggeredness of the guy in the pink top/black vest.. Catch my drift..? ;P

    What an awesome sounding place. Such a nice atmosphere to chillax..

  • At 3/18/2010 12:15 pm, Anonymous Rose said…

    I like anywhere that serves jugs of cocktails!

  • At 3/18/2010 12:20 pm, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    I thought 'Alice in Wonderland' too! Love the colourful kitschiness =D

  • At 3/18/2010 1:34 pm, Anonymous Dina said…

    Love how they do the dissolving sugar cube in water -- cool idea!

  • At 3/18/2010 4:17 pm, Anonymous Emma @CakeMistress said…

    Glad you found Madame Brussels. It's so adorable. The jugs are deadly if you don't play by the 'doubles' rules ;)

  • At 3/18/2010 6:07 pm, Anonymous Renita said…

    Ooh the The French absinthe ritual looks like fun. Waiters outfits arae pretty funky too. I'll keep this place in mind for my next visit!

  • At 3/18/2010 6:27 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oohhh what a quirky place but so very interesting! Hooray for jugs of cocktail, lets go drinking sometime ^^! hee hee

  • At 3/18/2010 7:00 pm, Anonymous Adrian @ Food Rehab said…

    ah Helen. I like how you strayed away from giving too much detail about the staff *ahem* uniforms...

  • At 3/18/2010 8:58 pm, Anonymous PlanningQueen said…

    One of my favourite places to visit in Melbourne, it is such a treasure!

  • At 3/19/2010 12:22 am, Anonymous penny aka jeroxie said…

    I do love this place very very much. BUmmer about work and could not catch up as well.

  • At 3/19/2010 8:36 am, Anonymous myriam @Detours said…

    Oh, thanks for sharing Helen - looks like you and Billy had a really fun weekend! I really love Madame Brussels and its quirkiness - my kind of places when I go to Melbourne!!

  • At 3/20/2010 1:54 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Hannah - Ha, I'm usually more interested in what's on my plate than what people are wearing. The outfits do add to the atmosphere of the place and yes, parasols do make the world seem more pleasant and carefree!

    Hi JT - Apparently Madame Brussels has been around for ages. I think Sydney needs more rooftop bars like it. We also wanted to go the Berlin Bar. Hope you get to explore them all on your next trip!

    Hi Billy - lol. I'm sure you will explain it much better than I, or perhaps a picture says a thousand words? And lol, thanks :)

    Hi Patty - Hope you get there soon!

    Hi Phuoc'n Delicious - Ha, I'm sure most women weren't complaining. lol. I could definitely see myself chillaxing here on the weekend. An awesome spot.

    Hi Rose - Oh yes indeed, cocktail jugs are my kinda party!

    Hi Mademoiselle Delicieuse - I think we need more whimsy in our lives. A great place to forget your worries and give in to fun.

    Hi Dina - The iced water contraption was very impressive. Such a spectacle for a very potent drink :)

    Hi Emma - Madame Brussels was one of our trip highlights. So much fun, and lol, I think cocktails tend to be deadly regardless!

    Hi Renita - It's a cool spot. Hope you make it there on your next visit!

    Hi FFichiban - I've seen you drink. lol. I think I'd be afraid to clink glasses with you :)

    Hi Adrian - I'm allowing Billy all the glory. lol

    Hi PlanningQueen - It's a fantastic spot - I just wish we had more like it in Sydney!

    Hi Penny - A shame we didn't get a chance to meet up, but I'm sure our paths will cross either in Sydney or Melbourne :)

    Hi myriam - We had an amazing weekend. So much to see and do. The bars and cafes are so cosy and Madame Brussels oozes with quirkiness and charm!

  • At 3/23/2010 6:28 pm, Anonymous KFC so good said…

    The Art Decor Absinthe Fountain! How fabulous!

    Is it wrong to notice wardrobe malfunction in one of those fabulous waiters with chinos? would that be something that atablefortwo should deal with together with the pink shorts? Should I praise Madam for her taste in lovely boys?

    think the sugar have dissolved into my absinthe now... pretend to concentrate on the dripping ice water....

  • At 4/09/2010 5:45 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi KFC So Good - Ha we couldn't help but notice the ahem, wardrobe of certain stuff. And yes, I loved the art deco absinthe fountain. Isn't it glorious?!

  • At 5/24/2010 12:21 am, Blogger xoxo said…

    Did you get to keep the paper parasols?

  • At 6/01/2010 1:32 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi anastasiastar - Alas no, they're just for loan :)


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