18 February 2011

71 Melville Road (The Patra House), Brunswick West, VIC, Australia

This little charmer down the road from our house has fascinated me a whole lot more than it probably should. At a glance, there isn't much to it - it's a pretty ugly brick shoebox of a building, and if it were actually a house I'd probably just dismiss it with a "Walshe and Whitelock" sort of rating. As it stands, though, I'm not entirely sure what purpose this place serves. Most of the time the place is pretty uninviting - normally, the door is locked, the blinds are closed and there is nothing to indicate that the place is in use except the rather stern "members only" sign on the door. However, every now and then this place opens its doors to the world, causing much intrigue and confusion. Or maybe that's just in my case.

When I first came to Melbourne, about this time last year, this place had some interesting flags and posters up in the window, which have actually reappeared in the last few days. Last year, there was a flag hanging up which we're pretty sure was Romanian. At the time, we thought that perhaps this was a club for slightly nutty Romanian nationalists. It doesn't seem at all implausible given the high volume of immigrants around here. However, the very small morsels of information I can find on this place actually indicate that this place is home to something called the Patra Brotherhood, named in relation to the Patras region of Greece. Ok, Greeks make even more sense - lots of the shops around here, including many delicious bakeries, are owned by Greeks - but that doesn't explain the weird flag! Is it some kind of weird celebration of multiculturalism? Somehow I don't think so. To add to the mystery, one day we were driving past and we saw a pretty big group of what looked like protesters outside the place. They were holding up Italian flags. What kind of inner conflict is occurring between the Italian and Greek population of Brunswick West? And what do the Romanians have to do with it? It just gets more and more bizarre.

However, on a rather anticlimactic note, I think I'm being forced to admit that The Patra House might not be as suspicious as I originally thought. I've seen the doors open on Saturdays when they tend to hold their functions, and inside it just seems like any old club - there's a bar, a large seating area and lots of standing room, all clean and tidy but rather nondescript. Still, I would like to know exactly how you become a member - it's not like you can just waltz in and ask the friendly staff. If I was a Greek person new to Melbourne, I'd feel pretty intimidated.

All that aside, and going back to the essence of the blog, they could have at least tried harder with their clubhouse (or whatever this is). Surely they could decorate the outside, perhaps put some nicer blinds in the windows, and make their sign just a little bit more interesting and welcoming. And for heaven's sake, take down the irrelevant sign on the side of the building! It says "LP gas conversions and EFI specialists", which just makes me think of cartoons in which dodgy Mafia groups hang out in headquarters disguised as a "pet shop". I don't have a photo to show the incongruous sign, so I did a drawing instead. I'm very talented at drawing.

When it all boils down, I think this place needs to close for renovation before any members are admitted. It gives them a bad impression of Melbourne. We have many beautiful buildings to choose from - I'm sure that they could buy one of the abandoned shops around here and fix it up to be quite nice. But no, they picked one which looks like it used to be an abattoir. Try harder with your secret society headquarters!

Rating: Unpleasant.


  1. Maybe the content of the club and what they have as a collective is so good they dont concern themselves with the look of building. Theyd rather spend their money on having fun and enjoying the quality of the person/conversation not the facade. ?? Or maybe it takes them back to when they first arrived in Melbourne. all they really need is a table, chairs, a pack of cards, some beer and nuts. maybe feta and olives and bread and dip too. :) And if you arent from Patras i'm not sure how you could become a member.

  2. I think this was the old post office, LOL to suggestion of an abbatoir.