Glenn Piper and Lachlan Cottee are set to unveil their reinvention of the Harbord Hotel – formerly the Harbord Beach Hotel – in December.

Freshwater locals themselves, Piper and Cottee acquired the Harbord Hotel at the beginning of the year off long-term owners John Thorpe and Trish King. Having taken over the Northern Beaches pub on 10 February, they only to got to operate the renowned venue for a couple of weeks before COVID struck. The pandemic forced their hand in taking on the renovation of the hotel earlier than expected.

“We originally intended to refurbish next year but when we had the forced closure in March, we had to take that opportunity to get some important works done,” stated Piper.

The first phase of the venue’s redevelopment will overhaul the ground floor including the expansive main bar and courtyard, and the launch of Balsa, a new casual, coastal dining experience that is set to become the heart and soul of Freshwater.

A major component of the venue’s refurbishment was uncovering some of the heritage architecture.

“To develop its future we really needed to dig into its past. We researched and took a lot of care to understand the different heritage items in the building that have been hidden away for decades, like  staircases to beautiful arched windows. We’ve exposed a lot of these heritage items which are really beautiful.”

An ode to surf culture

Designed in collaboration with architects Alexander & Co, Harbord Hotel has taken cues from Freshwater’s history and unique claim as the birthplace of surfboard riding in Australia. Greeted by a mural by local artist Ash Holmes, locals will be able to stroll up straight from the sea, throw their boards down the side and head into the sun-soaked courtyard to refresh and relax. The exterior of the building will have a new sun-bleached identity.

“In terms of positioning and the brand story, we’ve been inspired by the individuals who have helped shape Freshwater Beach culture all across the Northern Beaches. There’s some great stories and personalities which have been very significant in creating the beach culture that’s there today,” explained Piper.

Some of those identities include historical figures such as Bob Evans, who brought the first ever World Surfing Championships to Manly Beach; and Midget Farrelly, the first world surfing champion. The venue will also honour local boardshapers like Simon Anderson and the Brookvale Six, who have been creating innovative surfboard designs for decades.

“Our two signature points are  uncovering the heritage of the building, and linking our brand to some of the really strong personalities that have shaped surf culture.”

Food is the other key focus at Harbord Hotel, with head chef Adam Rust (ex-12 Micron) – also a Freshwater local – harnessing  the simple and natural flavours of salt, wood, and smoke to cook fresh seafood at the venue’s new restaurant, Balsa.

This first phase of Harbord Hotel’s reinvention is set to open next month.

“We’re very excited. We’re working around the clock to get it open this summer. It’s going to be a very ecstatic moment when we get the doors open because a lot of time and effort has gone into the build,” stated Piper.

The second phase of the renovation will add a boutique accommodation component to the hotel, as well as a café.

Vanessa Cavasinni

Vanessa Cavasinni is the managing editor of Australian Hotelier and Club Management, trade publications for the pub and club sectors respectively. Vanessa has been at the helm of Australian Hotelier since...

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