5 reasons to take a doggy staycation in St Kilda

Murphy at TolarnoStaycations are always fun. Imagine taking a mini-break with your four-legged friend along for the ride?

In St Kilda’s Fitzroy Street, fur babies can stay with you in an apartment hotel and remain by your side at nearby cafes, bars and restaurants for breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktails…. all with one of Melbourne’s best off-lead parks at one end of the street and a dog beach at the other. Five of the Best’s resident pooch Murphy was invited to test out Fitzroy Street’s dog-friendly hospitality (with big thanks to the Fitzroy Street Business Association for hosting us on an overnight staycation).

Murphy’s pictured here with a slightly confused expression at Tolarno Eating House and Bar, where the new owners let well-behaved dogs join their humans in the dining room. “We’re a neighbourhood eating house, and our locals love their dogs,” owner John Isherwood explains. “So as far as we’re concerned, dogs are always welcome to come in too.” So if you have a canine buddy, check out these five awesome reasons to visit Fitzroy St with your dog.

  1. Adina Apartment Hotel

    1. Adina St Kilda
    2. 157 Fitzroy St, St Kilda, (03) 9536 0000
    3. We could be in Paris, sweeping into reception at a stylish hotel with a freshly-groomed dog by our side. But this is park end of Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, and the Adina staff are making a huge fuss of our little pooch while we check in to our fully serviced apartment for the weekend. They don’t even flinch when our excitable puppy loses control of his bladder on the foyer floor (leaving his owners entirely red faced after several months of constant toilet training). Adina’s friendly team even cleaned up the wee. How dog friendly is that? Totally VIP (Very Important Pet). Upstairs, the apartment is modern and spacious with a comfy bed, a fabulous bathroom and a kitchenette. Dogs are looked after food and water bowls, chew toys and treats, a roll of clean-up bags and a big balcony for snoozing in the sun. Adina is across the road from Albert Park’s vast off-lead parkland, so it’s easy to wear out those four little legs.
  2. Tolarno Eating House & Bar

    1. Mirka Moira originals at TolarnoTolarno
    2. 42 Fitzroy St, St Kilda, 03 9042 8573
    3. Hotel Tolarno’s iconic dining room and bar quietly re-opened in November 2017 with the relaxed, old-school vibe of a friendly local bistro – so friendly that the new owners let well-behaved dogs into the dining room. It feels almost naughty, as if we’re breaking a law watching our little white cross-breed snuggle down next to Mirka Mora’s stunning wall murals. But we’re told pets are allowed in restaurants and cafes, so long as they’re not in food preparation area and the venue’s owners are happy. So there’s nothing else to do but sip on a classic cocktail, surf Tolarno’s new mod-Oz menu and take in a slice of St Kilda history. “We want this place to be the new local in St Kilda,” explains one owner John Isherwood. “It’s about feeling relaxed and welcome, and that includes pets.” So is the food as good as the hospitality? Head chef Sam Parslow bats up crowd-pleasers like triple-cooked rare breed pork belly with black pudding and pistachio crumble, fennel, orange and red vein sorrel; jerk-spiced chicken ribs marinated in pomegranate and black garlic; and Indonesian crispy fish poached in lemongrass, confit tomato and coconut curry sauce. Tolarno also offers a well-priced, impressive wine list.
  3. Robarta

    1. 109-111 Fitzroy St, St Kilda, 03 9534 9041
    2. Murphy is a social little bloke, so he’s quite the bar fly at Robarta, where he’s stretched out on a dog bed watching all sorts of people walk by on Fitzroy Street. Most of them are stopping to give Murphy a pat while his humans test out the extensive cocktail menu with Robarta’s owners Roger Wyndham and Trish Saunders. This charming couple are part of Fitzroy Street’s fabric, renovating the two-level nightclub into a social hub for locals and visitors. Robarta is also home base for some of Melbourne’s best DJs, bands and functions. When the sun goes down, Robarta comes to life, full of comfy nooks and crannies for crews of all sizes to kick back, enjoy some great music and share a few plates of Asian-style tapas. Make sure you order the house-made dumplings. They’re a party in your mouth.
  4. Fitzrovia

    1. Fitzrovia
    2. 2/155 Fitzroy St, St Kilda, (03) 9537 0001
    3. The next morning, the non-canines are a bit dusty after one too many cocktails, but there’s no stopping Murphy, who’s ready for his morning walk (more of a bolt around the playing fields of Albert Park while we walk behind). First we must stop at Fitzrovia, a delightful all-day diner next door to our hotel on Fitzroy Street, where there are plenty of pooch-friendly tables under a big old shady tree. Owners Paul Jewson and Marco Pugnaloni love hosting canine guests at Fitzrovia… so much so that they’ve come up with an adorable doggy menu. Water bowls are delivered straight to the table, with the option of puppychinos and chewy treats like kangaroo or beef raw-hide. Murphy devoured a plate of rare-breed pork rib bones (that were bigger than his entire torso… as you’ll see in his Instagram post below). He would’ve given the diced 200g scotch fillet steak a fair crack as well if we’d lingered any longer. So how’s the food for two-legged guests? Chef Paul does magical things with his hangover-busting brekky menu, while Marco makes sure everyone’s fed and watered. Breakfast dishes are both fancy and comforting, with tempting combos like crème brûlée French toast with banana, whipped mascarpone and toasted pecans. We devour the big-enough-for-two polenta-crusted gemfish fish fingers with grilled chorizo, corn and coriander fritters, poached eggs, avocado/feta mash and deliciously light prosecco hollandaise. The hot-smoked ocean trout on a sesame bagel almost did us in, with poached free range eggs, pickled beetroot and orange salad and chive hollandaise, but we’ve got plenty of dog walking to work it off on this sunny Sunday morning, so we get our (excellent) coffee to go. Fitzrovia also makes extravagant picnic hampers for the park and the beach (but you need to give the kitchen 24 hours notice).

  5. Albert Park off-lead dog zone

    1. Albert Park
    2. Fitzroy St, St Kilda
    3. Grab a hat, slap on sunscreen and don’t forget the tennis ball. Albert Park’s off-lead zones are a lovely place for both dogs and their owners. So much space. So many other dogs to meet.

5 reasons to take a doggy staycation in St Kilda