By Vanessa Cavasinni, editor Australian Hotelier

The dynamic Melbourne pub group is ready to unveil the transformation of their latest pub acquisition.

Sand Hill Road purchased the Waterside Hotel, on the corner of Flinders and King Streets in Melbourne’s CBD, off Sean Wellman in early May. The acquisition was made right after the group purchased the famed Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda.

Since then, the three-storey pub has been transformed with Sand Hill Road’s signature flair. Unlike the Garden State Hotel, where the venue was completely reimagined, director Matt Mullins said that the structure at the Waterside Hotel was left largely untouched, but the offerings within were updated.

“We’ve always loved this hotel. It’s one of the only grand hotels left in Melbourne and it already had the foundations for a great pub when we bought it. It’s a beautiful old building with a charming Public Bar, great dining spaces and a magnificent rooftop. Great pubs don’t always have to be re-built from the ground up. Sometimes great pubs just need to be reimagined in simple ways and the Waterside is the perfect example of this. These amazing 100-year-old spaces didn’t need to be rebuilt, they just needed to be beautiful again. But beautiful rooms also need great hospitality – amazing staff, a super talented chef and an impressive bar program. That’s what really makes a pub great.”

As is the group’s MO, the directors searched the globe for inspiration, traversing through Europe for inspiration and hidden treasures to incorporate into the hotel, such as art pieces and light fittings. But one stand-out feature was found much closer to home, with four large banquettes from the Gershwin Room at The Espy being transferred to Waterside Hotel.

New fit-out

The new iteration of the Waterside Hotel is comprised of different offerings within the venue. Upon entering the ground floor, patrons are greeted by the traditional Australian public bar, known as the Ale House, specialising in rare American crafts beers. Surrounding the Ale House is the Chophouse, a dining space specialising in high-quality cuts of meat, such as Robbins Island wagyu flank steak, or a 1.2kg Rangers Valley tomahawk. The last offering on the ground floor is the Doghouse, a hybrid of an American dive bar and sports bar – a late-night bar serving hot dogs, tinnies and bottled cocktails.

“It’s a bit raw, it’s a bit rough, it’s a proverbial doghouse – it’s where you go when you’re in trouble, or want to get in trouble,” said Mullins.

The first floor has been reimagined as the Bubblehouse – a champagne and cocktail lounge with a drinks list curated by Kevin Peters of Garden State Hotel. On the second floor is The Roof, a rooftop bar with view’s of Melbourne’s skyline. The Roof also offers abridged menus from the Ale House and Chophouse.

With the development of high-end residential and offices increasing around King Street, Mullins expects the area to develop as Melbourne CBD’s next hospitality precinct.

“This is an area with grit and serious edge. We don’t think for a second that King Street is ever going to lose that but a city like Melbourne doesn’t leave an underutilised corner in prime location for very long. It reminds me of the Meatpacking District in New York before it was completely reinvigorated into a cultural destination with a sexy and raw edge that makes it so appealing. King Street is overflowing with great offices, great workers and great residents – we predict that other operators will see the same potential of this area as we do.”

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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