Melbourne is home to a number of fine drinking establishments, but one of my favourites is the whimsically designed Madame Brussels. This upstairs pleasure garden, with faux grass, lattice and ornate chairs, makes you feel like you’re walking into Alice’s Wonderland.
Perched on Level 3 of 59 Bourke Street, this marvellous little Terrace has stunning views over roof-top Melbourne, including the ornately painted Princess Theatre Fly Tower. There’s plenty of places to pull up a seat and a tantalising menu of drinks and snacks to keep everybody happy.
Perhaps the most interesting part of Madame Brussels though is who the venue is named after. Throughout the 1880s and 90s Melbourne was home to the magnificent Caroline Hodgson- or Madame Brussels- the keeper of Melbourne’s most famous brothel in Lonsdale Street, which was attended by everyone from workers to politicians.
Her death was wildly celebrated in the media, after years of court battles, and clashes with one of the leaders of the Salvation Army, had tried to close her down. Her story is magnificent, and if you’d like to discover more there’s a marvellous book entitled Madame Brussels This Moral Pandemonium by LM Robinson which is well worth a read. You can also find remnants of Caroline Hodgson’s footprint on Lonsdale street down the aptly named Madame Brussels lane, which preserves some archaeological finds from the area, and has a number of info boards explaining the significance of the once seedy area.