Bourke County Beefhouse,

272 City Road, South Melbourne


Northern side of City Road, about 50 metres west of the King Street-King's Way overpass.


A real dark horse that I wouldn't have remembered or probably even have bothered about, except that it evokes memories when I walk past it just about every time I head off to the State Library.  

If anyone else of the current collection of Old Farts recall it, it will be Julie James or John Baxter, because the night I remember was an annual dinner for about 50 Professional Services Division staff and partners in 1975.

The year I am pretty certain of - the dinner came about three weeks after I transferred from P.S.D. Operations Manager to the Vic TAB project, but Tom Kopp insisted I attend as my name had been on the original list.  

Whether it was ever subsequently used by C.D.A., I have no idea.

The Bourke County was a two-story double-fronted restaurant (perhaps theatre-restaurant given it would have comfortably held 150 people if both levels were in use).

Very much catering for groups rather than intimate dining, it followed a late-19th century Western theme with rootin' tootin' cowgirls as waitresses and wagon wheels adorning the walls (the spoked, steel-rimmed variety, not the yummy chocolate-coated ones who incidentally were introduced into Australia in the early 1950s by a distant relative of mine).


The other thing of note about the Bourke County is that it was owned and operated by the well-known sports broadcaster and late-night chat show host, Tony Charlton (who passed away 17 December, 2012 after a long battle with cancer) and his family.

I haven't fully pursued the history of the site, but it was an unusual location for a restaurant when it opened in 1974; on a busy street and surrounded by light industry, mostly vehicle trade and engineering, although the old Trades Hotel (demolished in the last year or two) a few doors up had been used as the headquarters of Dulux Paints for a number of years.

From a quick scan I had of 272's previous tenants, they included plaster products, sheet metal manufacturing, a distributor of printing machinery and immediately before the Bourke County opened, as Connell's Wine Merchants, the only retail outlet for probably 400 metres on either side of City Road.


The Bourke County continued until around 1988 and there are suggestions that by this time, the Charlton family were operating a second restaurant.  Of the site's later use, nothing is known, but it seems likely that it continued as an entertainment venue of some description as for the last five of six years, it has functioned as a night-club - "night" may be debatable as there is often security staff at the entrance at 6.00 p.m. of a Thursday or Friday.

For the last two or three years, it has been the Fabrique Night Club - I tried to get in to discover whether there was any rootin' or tootin' still going on, but the security guards said I was too young - especially for any tootin'.

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