Frivolous, flirty and fun describe Madame Brussels, a bar in Melbourne’s CBD. Emerge from the lift, and into an English garden party, with a twist of Oscar Wilde. You are in a lounge of pink, green and white. It leads to an outdoor terrace. Staff step by in their little white tennis shorts and skirts. All that is missing is a pink flamingo!
Madame Brussels is enchanting on a balmy night. However, she is also lovely on a Spring day, when you can relax on the terrace and soak up the sunshine to the clink-clink of champagne glasses. There is an airy spaciousness, perhaps because there are no adjacent buildings on two sides of the terrace. There are two covered areas (one on the level above the terrace) where you can laze outside, but out of the direct sunlight. Alternatively, borrow one of Madame’s many colourful parasols. She understands that you will not wish to ruin your complexion with too much sun!
How did Madame Brussels come by her name? By being extremely naughty, of course. Madame Brussels was the pseudonym of a German woman who set up a brothel business in Melbourne more than 100 years ago. Apparently she conducted a roaring trade and drew the ire of morality campaigners. Although notorious, Madame Brussels was able to successfully operate her business, which appears to have flourished despite the 1890’s recession. You can read more about this history on her website.
Nowadays, Madame Brussels is presided over by its manager, Miss Pearls. When Miss Pearls is in residence (which is most always), she will guide you through the drinks menu. The drinks list includes French champagne, Pimms, and a range of wine and cocktails. This is not a venue for lunch, but there are some light snacks and sweets. The lamingtons are home-made by Miss Pearls’ Mum – they are light and fluffy, and go wonderfully with a glass of bubbly. Alternatively, try the macarons, which are from the delectable La Belle Miette.
Madame Brussels is open daily from noon until 1am. It can become very crowded after work hours, or after the races. A friend recently asked me where she should go to experience the Melbourne Racing Carnival without having to endure a horse race or a car park. I said “Go to Madame Brussels, you’ll get all the fashion, fun and champagne, and no horses!” She did go, at the end of a race day, and enjoyed herself immensely! Madame Brussels is on the third floor of 59-63 Bourke Street. The entrance to Madame Brussels is signposted and is next to the Spaghetti Tree restaurant.