Publican Craig Shearer has forged a partnership with high-profile Melbourne chef-restaurateur Scott Pickett following the multimillion-dollar restoration and redevelopment of The Continental Sorrento (previously Hotel Continental) on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.

Having secured the lease for venue’s the food and beverage outlets, Shearer and Pickett will team up on the extensive offering which includes a signature restaurant called Audrey’s, which is named after Pickett’s grandmother.

The other F&B outlets include a public bar, beer garden, conservatory, poolside, late-night venue, 24 hour in-room dining, and a sunset roof deck open for private bookings with bay views.

When it opens in stages between December 2021 to June 2022, The Continental Sorrento will also include a new 108 room InterContinental Sorrento Mornington Peninsula, which will be managed by IHG Hotels & Resorts, and a wellness centre.

Shearer’s Collective Heads pub group also operates The Terminus Hotel in North Fitzroy, Victoria, and two Queensland venues, the Plough Inn in South Brisbane and The Collective in Palm Beach.

Shearer says this latest union combines his expertise in owning and managing high volume drinking space with Pickett’s culinary proficiency to deliver on the cuisine, service and hospitality of each venue.

“We’re opening at the beginning of peak season, so we have to hit our stride quickly,” Shearer said. “This is an incredible addition to the Mornington Peninsula and I’m really looking forward to opening the doors to all our venues and seeing the place full and buzzing.” 

Shearer told Australian Hotelier that he and Pickett were mutual friends, and that this project provided them with an opportunity to collaborate.

“12 months ago, we formed a joint venture to put in a submission for the EOI, and were lucky enough to be selected. We negotiated a joint venture lease for the final stage of design and the creation of all things food and beverage at the Continental Sorrento.

“In this time of uncertainty, I hope this can provide a beacon of positivity for the local area and wider industry that a project like this can get off the ground in the middle of what we are all facing, and the opportunity it presents to industry in the form of 200-plus jobs.”

Pickett said, “It’s been brilliant working with Craig across areas that are new to us like high volume bars and large patron numbers expected to reach up to 5,000 a day.  It’s a little bit different from where I started with a 30-seater restaurant in Northcote.”

Development manager and part-owner, Robert Dicintio said, “The team we have established in Scott and Craig is exceptional, both are highly successful operators and absolute leaders in the hospitality industry in Australia.  We are excited to see their venues alive and thriving, serving both locals and visitors, and complementing the 108-room luxury InterContinental Resort Hotel.”

The Continental (known fondly by locals as the Conti) was built by actor, philanthropist and businessman, George Coppin in 1875, and has had a colourful history spanning almost 150 years, culminating last year in its acquisition and redevelopment by the Trenerry Consortium, which is owned by Victor Smorgon Group, the Kanat Group and Trenerry Property. 

The redevelopment will also feature an outdoor pool, gym and three function and event spaces, including the Conti’s original grand ballroom, which has been restored to cater for corporate and social events.

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