NOT: Retro Cafe, 413 Brunswick St, Fitzroy


Despite living close to Brunswick Street, it’s actually been a while since I went for a weekend stroll down the strip. So when a friend visiting from interstate suggested we have lunch there on a sunny Sunday, I couldn’t think of anywhere with an outside area that served really great food. Which is how by default we ended up at Retro.

For me, Retro is literally a cafe from another and another place. I don’t think I’ve been there since my early 20s, when I would shuffle outside at midday searching for a hangover breakfast after a night of bar-hopping with my footloose and fancy-free mates. The large cafe holds an enviable position on the quieter end of Brunswick Street, with trees dappling light over the pavement alfresco dining area and the usual Fitrovian op-shop vinyl mish-mash inside.

After planting ourselves on a just-vacated table in the shade, I went inside to get some menus and then waited for the debris to be cleared. A while later, I went back inside to ask whether we could order and whether someone could wipe down the table, grabbing two glasses and bottle of tap water on the way out. The laconic tattooed waiter followed me out with a spray bottle and a limp dishrag, both of which he then discarded at the next empty table.

Our meals came out in good time, but not the coffee my friend had ordered. She was good-natured about this (she’d already had her first coffee of the day) but I’d have expected a coffee to come out as soon as possible after the order, if only to buy some more time for the kitchen to prepare the meals.

My chicken burger with tomato, lettuce, caramelised onion, bacon, aioli and tomato relish ($15.90) was chunky and satisfying, although I was disappointed that my fries seemed to have come out of a frozen packet rather than handcut fresh. My friend’s chicken salad with salad leaves, tomato, cucumber and red onion was simple but unexciting ($14.90). She said that her skinny cappuccino, when it did arrive, was ok.

So while our actual meals were passable and the setting was relaxing, the poor service really let Retro down. We both decided that while we didn’t dislike our lunch, we would hesitate to return or to recommend Retro to others based on our experience.

For other lunch options on Brunswick Street, try Madame Sousou, Little Creatures Dining Hall, Cafe Provincial or Newtown Social Club.

    Retro Cafe, 413 Brunswick St, Fitzroy +61 3 9419 9103

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8 thoughts on “NOT: Retro Cafe, 413 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

  1. I think Retro has decided to filter out anyone who doesn’t meet their criteria. I’ve recently been turned away when looking for food by waiters who told me their menu isn’t great — whilst all around me slouching tattooed kids were partaking in some form of sustenance, albeit more of the liquid variety. I have been there a couple of times a few years back (when I was young, hung-over, and had a suitably pierced/tattooed style and friends to match) but even then it wasn’t that great.

  2. Hi Joyce
    I have experienced EXACTLY the same thing. This place used to be heaving ‘back in the day’ and you couldn’t get a seat for love nor money.
    Due to the bad service I’ve experienced, and the fact that there are so many better places around, I never go there any more.
    Sorry Retro Cafe, you just don’t do it for me any more.

  3. I recently went here for the first time in a long time and it will be the last time. Bad service, terrible eggs, cold coffee – such a shame because it’s a prime location. With so many other top places on the strip there’s no need to try this one.

    • Hi Hugh

      After we sat down we did think to ourselves ‘hmmm there’s probably a reason that we’re able to get a table on a beautiful sunny day here’. Sigh. Next time back to Babka.

      Jetsetting Joyce

  4. I’m not surprised that Retro is on the NOT list; I’ve never liked their over-priced basic diner food. I’ve also been there many times with a big group of goths and tattooed people and the service was just as slack with us as with anybody. Totally NOT indeed.

  5. Noticed last night that Retro was closed when it was meant to be open, mail stuffed under door etc… Maybe it’s bad service is taking a toll.

  6. Yes, Retro is no more. Walked past there yesterday and all the light fittings/ceiling fans were heaped in a pile near the window. There was a letter taped to the window about being in breach of contract for not paying the rent. Sad, like others have said Retro used to be great. I could see this coming once they started doing that happy hour thing. Some people have no business sense.

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