Control Data Australia Memories compiled by Brian Membrey

The Iliad

23 Fitzroy Street, St. Kilda

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Location

Southern side of Fitzroy Street, four doors west of Acland Street.

Memories

None for me, other than a general recognition that it was one of the earlier, if not earliest Greek restaurants in Melbourne.  Attendance record : nil.

History

Although the earliest years are a little unclear, it appears that the site at 23 Fitzroy Street has operated (perhaps with the exception suggested by Ron Bird below of a couple of recent years as a hair-dressing salon) as a café/restaurant since its inception somewhere between 1916 and 1920.

Under the "leap year" system, there was no mention of the site in 1916. In fact, given one would have assumed that Fitzroy Street would have been fully developed well before the turn of the twentieth century, it comes as a surprise that in that year, there were only seven properties listed between The Esplanade (number 1) and Acland Street - the Prince of Wales Hotel on the eastern corner then shown as 21-19.

In 1920, what became number 23 was shown as the Summerland Mansions Restaurant, listed amongst a number of unnumbered properties extending from 11 to the Prince of Wales. Number 15 in press advertisements at this stage was shown as "Summerlands House" (below), suggesting the Fitzroy Street frontage was not built upon.

Fitzroy Street was re-numbered over the next few years;  the Prince of Wales was officially stripped of its Fitzroy Street address and re-allocated to Acland Street and the "Summerhill Mansions" Café named after the large block of flats still existing today on the western side of Acland Street just south of the Fitzroy Street corner officially became 23 Fitzroy Street.

Whether there was any link between the flats and restaurant is unknown (an early "loyalty card" system?), but the site continued under the Summerland Mansion name under a variety of owners until around 1948 when it was known for a few years as the Sydney Café.  

By at least 1950 and perhaps reflecting the post-World War 2 influence of American culture, it became known as the Saratoga Café and Coffee House (the original proprietor was noted as Aristides John Nicolades, suggesting a Greek influence was already in play).

It still bore that name when it was refurbished around 1969 by Harry Partos as The Iliad. Partos was somewhat famous during the 1970s as one of the leaders of a local campaign to clean up both St. Kilda Beach and several of the drains flowing into the Bay, at one stage claiming the smell from the Cowderoy Street drain (some 600 metres to the north) was putting his diners off his food.

Today

I was somewhat shocked to discover that the Iliad closed around 1980, because it seems to be one of those iconic places that seemed to have existed long enough to claim fame as a "Melbourne institution", but who am I to argue with what contemporary telephone directories of the day reveal.

Ron suggested in his email that he believed it was currently operating as a hair-dressing salon, but my wanderings "twixt Christmas 2014 and New Year, 2015 suggest it, along with 25, 21 and 19 Fitzroy Street have all been extensively modernized and combined into a (probably 200-plus seat) restaurant called Miss Fitzy's, the external advertising "modern Australian cuisine".  It wasn't open when I wandered past early one morning, but from what could be seen, not a traditional Greek plate to be smashed in sight.