By Vanessa Cavasinni, editor Australian Hotelier

Victorian pub group Sand Hill Road opened its newest pub, Garden State Hotel, last week in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD.

The pub is the newest inhabitant of the building at 101 Flinders Lane, which begin its existence as a textile mill in the 1880s, and was home to popular nightclub Rosati in the 80s and 90s. Garden State Hotel is the largest pub offering from Sand Hill Road, covering 2000 sqm and with an 840-pax capacity.

“We’d been looking for a location in the Melbourne CBD for years but we knew it was a long shot to find a site of this scale with so much potential. We all remembered long days and amazing nights at Rosati. By the time we rediscovered the space, it’d been closed for years, but the moment we returned we knew it was special,” stated Matt Mullins, on of Sand Hill Road’s co-owners.

Surrounded by many of Melbourne’s most-lauded restaurants, Mullins and his three fellow co-owners – his brother Andy, Tom Birch and Doug Maskiell – were happy to bring add a pub to the city centre’s offering.

“To us, pubs have been the one constant through hundreds of years of Melbourne history. We love to breathe new life into venues, to create community pubs that become a meeting place to celebrate with family, friends and colleagues.”

Techné Architects, which worked on all six of Sand Hill Road’s other pubs helped bring the vision for this extensive, four-level pub to life. Named after the state of Victoria’s moniker, it is also a part of the hotel’s aesthetic, with a central beer garden dominating multiple levels, including three large ficus trees within the interiors of the pub.

“In our travels, we’ve learnt that Melbourne is world-renowned for two things: its laneways and its incredible gardens. The laneway bit was covered – we’re slap-bang between four of the most famous laneways on earth. But our pocket of the CBD is seriously short of gardens. We wanted to provide a lush oasis for busy city workers and residents surrounded by the vast concrete jungle,” says Mullins.  

On the ground floor, patrons are greeted by a large public bar with stone top. Behind this the beer garden opens up, which reaches into the basement level through cascading seating around the atrium at the centre, where the trees reach the first floor level of the building.

At the back of the beer garden is the Garden Grill – the pub’s main dining space which is headed up by head chef Ashly Hicks (ex Circa, The Buffalo Club). The menu for the Garden Grill, which will focus on share plates and a raw bar, was a collaborative effort between Hicks and Sand Hill Road’s executive chef Danny Pareno (ex Merivale). The wine list is overseen by sommelier Marcus Radny (ex Royal Mail Hotel, Qualia).

The basement is home to the Rose Garden (pictured), an intimate cocktail saloon filled with French crystal chandeliers, antique wall décor and giant rose motifs by local artists. The first floor houses the Balcony Dining Room, a private dining space for 18 people that includes a balcony overlooking the beer garden below. The second floor is dedicated to the hotel’s main function space, the Observatory with room for up to 120 people.

“Within the Melbourne CBD there is probably no other hospitality venue, based on the spirit of a pub, that offers a comparable variety of spaces and experiences under the one roof,” explained Justin Northrop, director of Techné Architects.

The pub’s staff and operators, including Andy Mullins, have been blown away by the response to the hotel in its first week of operations.

"Since opening the doors to Garden State, [we’ve] been so overwhelmed by Melbourne's response. It's been flat stick since we poured the first beers in the Public Bar and built the first round of drinks in the Rose Garden. I think the city really just needed this famous old site back in action!"

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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