James Thorpe fulfils long-term ambition by taking Odd Culture to Melbourne

Odd Culture’s new Victorian outpost is located inside the original Fitzroy Post Office (most recently an MP’s office) and will offer a bar and bottleshop rolled into one. 

The venue, which is slated to open in May, is located on the famous Fitzroy food and drink strip of Brunswick Street. Odd Culture CEO, James Thorpe, tells Bars & Clubs the new venue is fulfilling a long term ambition of the group. 

“We see that area there in Fitzroy as being a spiritual home of Odd Culture,” James says. 

“When we were coming up with the original concept for the bar and restaurant in Newtown, it was borne out of a trip to visit the grand old breweries of Belgium, and to explore this theme of the intersection between craft beer and natural wine along the theme of fermentation.”

Odd Culture also took inspiration from closer to home too, as James explains.

“We were also inspired by the many, many drinking bottle shops in Melbourne, which is something that we don’t have up in Sydney.”

The group had attempted to recreate something like this with the initial Newtown location, but were scuppered by local licensing laws. In this regard then, the Odd Culture concept is ‘coming home’ with the Melbourne venue. 

“In Victoria, the standard liquor licence you get out of the box, allows you to have an integrated on-premise space,” James says. 

“So when the opportunity came up to tackle the project of building an Odd Culture in Fitzroy, we jumped at it.”

The process began about 18 months ago, including design, construction and council approvals. 

“When we found [the building] it was an MP’s office… And so it was fitted with a drop popcorn ceiling, and all the windows were blacked out. When we demolished the space, we revealed these really beautiful high ceilings and heritage features,” James continues. 

Previously, James has handled much of the design of his venues himself, but for this location, he and his team enlisted the services of Melbourne-based interior design and architecture firm, Spaces. 

“[They] have basically taken what we did in Newtown and tried to recreate it as much as possible,” James says. 

“Venues evolve over time, so we’re trying to capture the most recent essence of what Odd Culture is in the design of the space down there.”

Nevertheless, there will be some Melbourne-specific features to the new operation, particularly with the food and drink offering as James explains. 

“There is sort of a new flair running through the venue,” the CEO adds. 

“We don’t have a gigantic kitchen. That said, James McDonald, our executive chef has put together a menu of like fan favourites from Newtown – chicken liver pate with the miso caramel sauce and the house-made potato chips, that’s going to be on down there.

“We’re definitely going to be working with a lot of local suppliers – Meatsmith is probably the main one. James Mac [McDonald] earlier in his career, opened the original Meatsmith in Fitzroy, so that was a natural relationship to kind of pursue with this project.”

Victorian wines will also have a strong representation at the venue, which retains the same focus on fermented beverages as the Newtown Odd Culture. Group Beverage Manager, Jordan Blackman, is developing the drinks menu, which is still in the works, and there will be some cocktails on offer too. 

“It’s yet to be determined, but it will be really similar to what’s in Newtown – like the same 12 taps, same backbar, it’s going to look almost identical,” James said. 

Mixed drinks will include the flagship cocktail from Odd Culture Newtown, the Sour Negroni. See the recipe here

Odd Culture Fitzroy will have “a really well curated beer list, that is curated by style constantly,” according to James. 

“We don’t do tap showcases of producers or anything like that, we try to take a new approach to the whole thing.”

Approachability is also high on the agenda for the bar, James says.

“Anyone can go in there and feel like they can get something that they are looking for, and not feel stupid if they don’t know everything about beer or wine.”

Melbourne local Gerry Nass, previous owner and operator of the Beresford (prior to its Merivale days) and the Robbie Burns Hotel in Collingwood, will be the new venue’s GM. 

Odd Culture now operates a portfolio of venues including the Oxford Tavern, the Old Fitzroy Hotel, the Duke of Enmore, Odd Culture Newtown and the Odd Culture Bottleshop. A late night venue in Newtown is also set to open this winter, with more news to come shortly. 

Fitzroy is the group’s first interstate venue, and James suggests that it might not be the last. 

“Never say never right? Whenever set out to be the biggest hospitality group in the world or anything like that, we just kind of pursue interesting venues. 

“So I mean, if the opportunity came up, and it made sense to definitely look at that. But we’ve got enough in the pipe right at this moment. Not for a little while.”

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