Girdis Brothers’ Melba Café: American style in Fortitude Valley

10 thoughts on “Girdis Brothers’ Melba Café: American style in Fortitude Valley”

  1. Hi Toni, My name is Georgina Monserrat. I am the youngest daughter of Aristophanes Varthlamis known as Steve Varthas and Angela Girdis, George Girdis’s daughter. I am sending Despina Drakos a few photos of the Melba Cafe and the Melba Snack Bar both of which were in Wickham St. First the Cafe and then the Snack Bar opened a few doors up from the Cafe. As the Cafe closed the Snack Bar opened. Steve Varthas and Nick Girdis took over the business. I was told that the name of the Cafe was taken from Dame Nellie Melba. She was a great singing star of the time. I also have other photos I will send to Despina. If you wish to contact me please do not hesitate.


  2. Thanks for adding to this history Georgina. I didn’t know about the snack bar. And you are right about Dame Nellie. There was a picture theatre opposite the cafe, called Melba Pictures, also named after the great singer (1861-1931). Melba made her debut in 1864. I haven’t been able to find out when the theatre was named or when the cafe was built. I will be in touch.


  3. Hi Toni,
    My name is Caroline (Girdis) Comino the eldest daughter of Nicholas George and Irene Girdis. I’ve just read your article re the Melba Cafe and would like have the opportunity to add the rest of the history of the Melba cafe as only part of the story has been captured.
    My Dad, Nicholas George Girdis ( “son “of George Girdis referred to in your article ) and his wife Irene continued the Girdis family legacy of owning a operating the Melba cafe from 1956-1982. In 1958, my Uncle Steve Varthas and his wife Angela (Girdis) joined the cafe business.
    Like many other migrant families, my Dad returned from the war and took over the successful Melba cafe family business from his aging grandfather and his uncle Steve Girdis.
    My cousins , sister and I have many fond memories and great childhood stories of growing up working and helping in the family business – the Melba cafe.

    If it’s not too late I would like to send you the “next chapter” of the Melba Cafe story along with anecdotal stories that are entwined with the rich history of the Fortitude Valley precinct. I can also provide you with photos etc of the Melba cafe over the years.

    I should also mention I am first cousin to Despina Drakos ( our respective mothers are sisters) and she has encouraged me to contact to directly.

    If possible can you send me 4 tickets to the opening of this exhibition at the state library as I would like to bring my Dad Mum and my sister ( Ie Nicholas George and Irene Girdis ) , Caroline Comino and Diane Peterson.

    Kind regards
    Caroline Comino
    Note: to clarify – there are two cousins – Nicholas George Girdis (my Dad) and Nicholas Steve Girdis ( who supplied you with the early history) Their respective fathers George and Steve were the original Melba cafe owners

    Can you please inform me of your direct email so I can forward you the information next week
    My email –


    1. Dear Caroline, I am delighted to have another branch of the family add to this story. That had been the goal of this blog from the beginning. I will email you.


  4. Hello, I very well remember the Melba Milk Bar in Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley. It was my favourite place as a child to buy milk shakes, icecream sodas, rocky road and to have a meal. I mainly visited with my mother and as we frequenters of the nearby Embassy and Rex picture theatres and always went to our favourite venue after the movies. I am talking about the years in the 1950s, early 60s. Now I have looked at the streetscape in Google Earth and am now a little uncertain which was the Melba shop as there has been so much change in recent years. It is one of those shops with the arched frontages but I need some help in identifying the correct one. I would dearly like a photo of the Melba as it was in my memory – 55 years+ ago. I am also an administrator of the Facebook page “Fortitude Valley Revisited” which focuses on the postcode 4006 suburbs. I can be reached at


    1. Hello Ray. I believe the shop is now a grocer or something similar. I found a Nite Owl thereabouts so perhaps that’s it. Thank you for your sharing memories.


  5. Hi Toni, my mom, Irene (Rene) Wain worked at the Melba Cafe for 17 years during the 60’s & 70’s. With Nick & Steve. I remember Nick from my childhood. When on school holidays, mom would take me to work with her & I would often sit out the back or in one of the booths talking to the girls & many of the clientele. The girls would often treat me to a milkshake with a nod & a wink & a “don’t tell Nick” when I was little. I always remember mom making me a ham sandwich that I would then take to eat at the picture theater up the street. Nick was such a lovely man. I loved the milkbar & was sad when it was redeveloped into the Valley Centre Arcade. In 1977 I set a world record pinball marathon in the Valley Centre Arcade. My mom passed away in October last year. I would love to know if anyone had any photos that included my mom. Cheers, Phil Wain


    1. Dear Phil, i am sorry to hear that you have lost your Mum. I am in contact with several Girdis family members so we can check if your Mum is in any of the photos we have. I will email you. Thank you for sharing your memories. They are so valuable. Toni


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