One of Melbourne’s oldest pubs has undergone an environmentally conscious renovation.

Publican Vincent Magrath and the Victorian branch of the Australian Nurses and Midwives Foundation acquired the Central Club Hotel in 2018, and from the beginning Magrath had a clear vision of the experience he wanted to give the hotel’s guests.

“The very essence of hospitality can get lost sometimes; the clue is in the word itself but can often get missed. Hospitality starts from the very first interaction with your guests and continues long after they leave,” Magrath said.

The renovation was designed by Bayley Ward Architects in partnership with Revival Projects, with the goal of reviving the building’s 150-year heritage while remaining completely sustainable. In an Australian first for a commercial space, the build was conducted to the Passivhaus Standard, meaning that every element was designed for optimum energy efficiency.

“I cannot wait to show locals how much material from the original building has been repurposed into the new build. I’m lucky to be involved in a redevelopment that had so much care and precision taken in how the building was designed from a sustainability perspective,” Magrath enthused.

The building’s original jarrah wood fixtures has been saved from landfill and restored throughout the space, and is now visible in the furniture, table-tops and joinery. It has also been carried over to the kitchen and bar, which are now utilising jarrah wood charcuterie boards and whiskey tasting paddles.

Magrath is honoured to be the newest custodian of the historic venue.

“The first mention of Central Club Hotel we can find was in 1869 – if only these walls could talk! We’re lucky to have a huge catalogue of newspaper clippings that give us insight to what the place used to be and some of the shenanigans that went on inside. It’s existed since Victorian times, when it was a horse-drawn cab bureau, and during the interwar period it received ‘a bit of an art nouveau remodelling.’ Taken over by the Aidone brothers in 1964, it was built into the iconic landmark locals know and recognise today,” he described.

Magrath envisioned the renovated space as a revival of the classic cosy pub atmosphere, which has been achieved with industrial décor and sprawling open plan seating in the public bar. The bistro section includes lower tables for more formal dining, and the open kitchen offers an intimate private dining space for up to 18 guests. The rear stairs have been lined with the hotel’s original tiles and lead to the Depot Bar, a whiskey-driven bar with a moody, luxurious feel. In the near future, the Central Club Hotel hopes to use the space for whiskey tastings, classes, and events. The venue also offers accommodation in eight boutique micro-hotel rooms located on the first floor.

The bar offering celebrates Australian producers. Almost all of the 12 taps serve Australian beer, with the exception of Guinness. The drinks list highlights smaller, independent winemakers, focusing especially on South Australian and Victorian wines, and including a number of alternative varietals such as Grenache Blanc and Pinot Meunier. The Italian-inspired menu has been overseen by Head Chef Alessandro Carestia (of Restaurant Alliance, Paris and Da Noi, Melbourne), and includes hand-rolled pastas made in-house and shareable seasonal entrées, crafted with fresh ingredients from the neighbouring Queen Victoria Markets.

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