The Provincial Hotel is located on the busy strip that is Brunswick Street where some of Melbourne’s most well known bars, nightclubs, cafes, restaurants and various shops are, as well as being frequented by bohemians. These factors might make you not expect any of these bars to be easy going. Fortunately, the Provincial Hotel has a pub-like atmosphere and none of the pretentiousness neighbouring bars probably have.
If you get here early enough, you can walk right into the Provincial Hotel without the bouncer hassling you and can avoid having to wait in the queue that forms later on. The crowd seems to be mostly in their 30s and 40s, indicating the venue is more allocated to an older crowd who probably have come to catch up with their mates over a few drinks.
However, that does not mean the Provincial Hotel is a quiet place. The place is usually packed, meaning everyone is going to chatting away loudly so they can be heard over the music the DJ is playing. The DJ plays their tunes in a room separate from the bar area where the dance floor is. The DJ tends to be play generic ambient music at first, then remixed versions of songs ranging from ‘Smoke On The Water’ by Deep Purple, ‘Strange Love Triangle’ by New Order, and ‘Bad Romance’ by Lady Gaga take over and get the venue’s inebriated patrons heading to the dance floor. The music played here is obviously catering to the mostly older crowd’s taste in music from the days of their youth, while trying not to alienate the younger patrons who prefer more recent songs, though they most likely came here to have their first drinks for the night before moving on to more livelier, youth-orientated venues anyway.
The Provincial Hotel has a mostly relaxed atmosphere, making it instantly likeable, though a mate of mine was told to take his cap off, so the staff do expect patrons to adhere to their smart casual dress code. The venue has a sense of quirkiness too, with odd objects around, such as an old 1950s coffee machine, a 1990s pay phone without a receiver, encyclopedias shelved on the wall, and a plush mattress-like door leading to the staff area. From where my group was standing, you could see the entrance to the dance floor and next to it is what first appears to be another way into this area, though it is actually a mirror reflecting the wines in the display cabinet along the wall adjacent to it.
Speaking of alcohol, there are quite a few wines, beers, and bourbons available to purchase from the friendly and quick bartenders, such as Becks and Stella Artois on tap, Jim Beam and Johnny Walker, and numerous other drinks commonly seen at bars. There is also an extensive cocktail menu for the ladies to gawk over, and they will be even more willing to try these with the $20 cocktail jugs they can share so they can get drunk quicker.
With an upstairs function room available and serving lunch and dinner, the Provincial Hotel is a very relaxed bar by Fitzroy standards and is worth checking out if you want to catch up with friends or to start off a wild night out.
Originally published here at barsandnightclubs.com.au on Monday 5 December 2011