211 Gertrude St
Fitzroy, VIC 3065
On first glance, Builder’s Arms Hotel is just your usual pub – nothing fancy, probably has a parma night on Tuesdays and trivia on Wednesdays. But here’s the thing: it’s not just any other watering hole – it’s an Andrew McConnell joint. What that means is familiar comfort dishes, spun around with ingredients and techniques worthy of fine dining, all without losing any of its essential pubbiness. Even on a Wednesday night, the energy in the bistro is incredible, the dining room filled with an entire cross-section of the city, ready to soak up the effortless polish of the venue. In fact, the whole experience is so well-considered that you somehow come away convinced that you’ve had both a special night out and a casual evening at the pub. Am I absolutely in love with this place? Without a doubt.
Rating: 15.5/20 – a pub for all occasions.
To-order: it’s genuinely all good, though keep an eye out for their weekly specials (steak mondays, chicken tuesdays, rotisserie sundays)
Did you know: i had my wedding catered by cumulus inc – that’s how much i am a simp for andrew mcconnell.
The Spencer Gulf King Prawns, Curry Leaf, Curry Butter ($29) are exceptional. Barely cooked with just a quick lick of flame, the natural briny sweetness of these enormous prawns complemented by an earthy, turmeric-forward curry butter. Make sure you use your hands to get all the goodness in the heads – they expect the mess.
Bread is usually just bread, unless it’s the legendary Whipped Cod Roe, Flatbread ($15). Rounds of Turkish bread are pressed and heated until a buttery crust forms, and then are sliced into soldiers to be swiped through the rich yet ethereally light cod roe dip.
The Fish Pie ($39) has been around since day one, and it’ll turn any skeptic into a seafood-lover. The flaky, golden lid of puff pastry transfigures into buttery layers as it soaks up the velvety seafood stew, which boasts hearty chunks of snapper, trout, and prawn, flavoured with the warm yet fresh aniseed notes of dill and fennel.
The side dishes look pretty good, but not as good as the entrée of Heirloom Tomatoes, Cucumber, Radish, Tahini, Zaatar ($22), which we repurposed into an accompaniment for our fish pie. The seasonal produce here really sings, the sunny ripeness of the tomatoes and crisp bitterness of the radish grounded with the earthy base of tahini and zaatar.
The Summer Berry Eton Mess ($17) is absolutely scrumptious. Slathered with heavy cream, the plump berries are starbursts of summer sun, their tartness mellowed out by shards of frothy meringue. And just to keep things cool, a smooth yoghurt sorbet lines the bottom of the parfait, matching the berries and cream in its sweet tanginess.
Arguably the only underwhelming item for the night was the Cocomo Cooler ($12), which sounded like a slam-dunk combination of coconut water, pandan, and star anise syrup. Unfortunately it ended up tasting like a slightly fizzy and very mildly spicy coconut water. It’s fine, but didn’t live up to expectations.