Wednesday, 17 April 2013


166 Johnston St. Fitzroy
9416 5055

One of the perks of being on a break from work is the ability to attend restaurant events during the day.  Thanks to Clemence Harvey and Eliza Howgate at Harvey Publicity, we were kindly invited to the Town Hall Hotel in Fitzroy to have lunch with Chef Harry Lilai and his team.

Harry Lilai needs no introduction. Best known for his 10 years at Cecconi's where he achieved 2 hat status, his project at the Town Hall Hotel in Fitroy, about to enter its third year, brings him back to his roots.  Teaming up with wife Michelle and manager Stuart Neil, they have taken the formerly derelict pub to the top of the Melbourne gastro pub scene.

This project is a labour of love for Harry, Stuart and Michelle.  The building has a rich history.  Originally built to house guests of the Fitzroy town hall, it was best described as 'unsafe' when Harry and the team moved in.  The bulk of the fit out went to making the building inhabitable, and what was left was put to good use in transforming the space into a modern but unpretentious venue that can house 120 across the main dining level, bar, private cellar/dining room, and upstairs.  Stuart has an interesting view on the decor, preferring to continuously evolve the space as funds and inspiration permits.

What I love about day time events is there is a much more relaxed atmosphere, as the team is not under pressure to deliver to a packed dining room full of customers.  Instead, we are able to spend a couple of hours with the team, enjoy a large part of the menu, and discuss their vision.

Harry has nothing left to prove, having cooked for over 25 years and achieved multiple hat status.  A legend of the Melbourne dining scene, he stepped away from the hustle of a city powerhouse and took on an entirely different project.  The move to Fitzroy was visionary.  Since moving in, the area has become a hotspot for gastropubs, gourmet trash and of course the McConnell clan.

The benefit of having done it all, is that Harry can cook what he wants.  The theme here is ultra high quality produce married with traditional Italian techniques.  But don't expect to see the usual pizzas, spaghetti bolognese and lasagne.  Harry's menu is extensive and draws on 25 years of innovation and experience.

Complementing the impeccable menu is the front of house, seamlessly run by Stuart.  Stuart has one of those rare abilities to combine a friendly familiarity with an unwavering desire to meet the needs of the customers.  His wine knowledge is impeccable and he truly rounds out the experience.

We ate: 
Hot dates filled with tallegio and pancetta
Chickpea battered oysters, pickled fennel
Yellow fin tuna crudo, shallots, horseradish, capers and sweet saffron dressing
Seared beef carpaccio, truffled beef tartare, reggiano shavings
Arancini of baccala, salad of parma ham, red onion, witlof
Duck liver parfait crostini
Tortelloni of pumpkin and leek, prosciutto, lemon butter, fresh ricotta
Risotto of porcini, confit garlic, truffled pecorino
Osso bucco milanese, saffron risotto, gremolata
Coconut panna cotta, pineapple and lime salsa
Tiramisu - sponge soaked in strega, kahlua and coffee, marscapone
Hot chocolate pudding, citrus compote, malted ice cream
Bombolone - custard filled Italian doughnuts, orange blossom, honey ice cream (below)
It's very hard to pick highlights when everything is a highlight.  However the risotto was orgasmic, the duck liver parfait smoked to perfection, and the chocolate pudding rich like Rupert Murdoch.

Thanks again to Clemence and Eliza for the invitation; and Harry, Stuart and Michelle for an amazing lunch.

Town Hall Hotel on Urbanspoon


  1. The greatest thing about this place was its interesting concept, and dare i say its sexy and seductive! The wood paneling makes the entire space feel warm and intimate. The seats are modern and comfortable.

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  3. Wow! It looks yummy, If this food will serve in every hotel that would be great. Thank you for sharing this with us.

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