Mirka Mora mural features at local watering hole

Mirka Mora mural features at local watering hole
Carol Saffer

East Melbourne’s The Tippler & Co bar and eatery sits quietly in what was once Café Balzac space, owned and operated by Georges and Mirka Mora from 1958 to the late ‘70s.

When husband and wife team Gus McAllister and Nicole Murnane took over the property in 2013, they knew the venue’s history.

It had seen many iterations since the Balzac days, with the building not having any work done on it until 2013.

“When we moved in, it was awful; all the interior walls were painted fire engine-red,” Mr McAllister said.

With help from friends and family, the two of them bought it up to scratch for opening.

“During renovations to our upstairs function area in 2016, we uncovered a magnificent Mirka Mora mural,” he said.

“The mural, circa the mid-1960s, was painted directly on the wall. We discovered it was covered in black plastic, and then plasterboard was applied on top.”


It was pretty big finding it.


The artwork is a prime example of Mirka’s style. Painted in blue and charcoal, people, flowers, and animals embrace along the length of the wall.

Now enclosed in Perspex, where there is no natural light on the mural, longevity is probably guaranteed.

During an extended trip through Europe, Gus and Nicole visited numerous cafes, bars and eateries, and around conversations dominated by boutique this and local that, The Tippler & Co concept was born.

The venue is snug and comfortable, with four different areas to imbibe, eat, chat and relax; Mr McAllister calls it a quiet place.

All the interiors are designed to be comfortable with recycled timbers and soft furnishings.

“We do a lot of engagement with residents and people who work in the area,” he said

“We have 90-plus-year-old locals come in, and the dining room has low seating and is quiet.”

The front bar, where the after-work drinks take place at the high tables, was originally the coach house and stables.

“It can be what we need it to be; it can be a bar, a restaurant, a wedding venue and an outdoors function area,” Mr McAllister said.

“We feature beers for a locally owned brewery, independent wines and a thoughtful menu.”

“The locals are such a bedrock of this place.”

During lockdown, the Wednesday special was introduced, half-price pan-fried gnocchi, delivered locally by bike or picked up as take away. It kept the community connected and guaranteed one full day of work for all the staff.

“It was such a success Wednesday gnocchi is still going and doesn’t look like it’s coming off the menu any time soon.”


Image: Gus McAllister in the Mural Bar.

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