Melbourne Q&A with the Pinnacle Hotel
For the 2nd year running, The Pinnacle Hotel took out our Top 50 Pubs in Melbourne countdown. Something that had never been achieved before. We ask owner Leigh Wilkes, the secret to running a great watering hole.
When did you buy the Pinnacle and what first attracted you to it? In 2005 my mother in law was living in North Fitzroy, and her and my wife were out exploring the neighbourhood one night and came across this beautiful building and poked their heads in for a look. What they discovered was a quirky little bar, a local secret and a wealth of untapped potential. It wasn’t for sale but I figured there would be no harm in writing Jan, the owner, a letter asking about her intentions for the business. As it turned out she was about ready to move on and in 2006 it was ours. Serendipity.
How would you describe the venue to someone who has never been before? The Pinnacle is your Nanna’s house, if your Nanna loved beer so much she put 9 taps in her living room. The Pinnacle is a place of simple pleasures, hospitality, conversation, live music. A regular meeting place, a local pub you can feel at home in.
Leigh Wilkes, owner of the Pinnacle Hotel.
Pubs in the area seem to be hosting less bands these days, yet you continue to host them 3-4 nights a week. Why is that? Musicians work in pubs, they also drink in pubs, so we like to give them the opportunity to play in pubs. The setup at the Pinnacle is pretty raw, you’re basically playing in a backyard, but the bands get reminded of why they started playing in the first place, the punters pick up the vibe and it just works. Music is the Pinnacle’s soundtrack, live and free.
Your menu takes classic pub grub and gives it a twist. What can you tell us about the chef and his signature dish? Chef Tim came to us from the Rose hotel in Fitzroy, from a time when if you wanted a classic Melbourne pub feed you went to the Rose. The menu didn’t change much there though so Tim’s creativity was being wasted. When he came to us, I let him fly. We still love the Pub classics but our daily specials board gives him the opportunity to do what he loves with food. So what we get is French, Spanish, North African, Japanese, Scottish themed pub grub. The deep dish pie is an ever changing, endearing classic that is much loved.
You cottoned on early that people want more than CUB. How do you describe you beer range? Self indulgent? The beer list reflects my love of tasty beer. Supporting those crafty little guys who put it all on the line to make good alternative beers has been a passion of mine since I had my first bottle of the original Mountain Goat pale ale back in the early 2000’s. I take great pride in the fact I’ve converted my regulars away from mass produced lagers on to more handcrafted and flavoursome brews. Our beer range reflects the history and story of beer before some clever marketer captured our ‘hard earned thirst’ and condensed it into a single style.
Any developments in the future? We’ll keep doing what we do and striving to be better. We’re trying some new things with entertainment, adding some theatrical stuff, storytelling, play reads. Building our live music following is a big focus too. We’ll keep trying to do whatever we can to make the Pinnacle feel like a big warm hug!