Toronto Hotel in Lake Macquarie, New South Wales, launched The Mulberry Tapas and Lounge on its second floor late last year. Since then, the hotel has added a new demographic to its patronage.
The Mulberry was launched in early November after owner-operator Jon Bortoli felt that the second-floor function space was underutilised and dated. Instead, he wanted to create a small bar in the space, to add a different offering to the hotel.
Bortoli brought on Erica Warren as a consultant on the project. Warren has spent her life in pubs, growing up in the Grand Hotel in Kiama on the South Coast of New South Wales. She also worked in the Jamberoo Pub for 30 years, including as licensee from 2006 to 2016.Warren took on the Toronto Hotel small bar project six months after leaving Jamberoo Pub, as her first consultancy project. She collaborated with a local interior designer, Justine Kaye, on the concept.
The Mulberry is an old-world, Cuban-inspired bar with an aesthetic of palm tree motifs, Chesterfield lounges and cane chairs. A lace-lined veranda wraps around the entire space, with views of Lake Macquarie.
The tapas menu was overseen by head chef Matt Walkom and sous chef Kristy Neesom, and includes pork tacos, sticky baby octopus and churros with chocolate. The succinct cocktail menu, designed by Warren, focuses on rum of every variety. The signature drink is the Blue Parrot, a take on a pina colada that uses three varieties of rum.
The local community has been very supportive of the second floor small bar, with Warren stating that it has brought new patronage to the Toronto Hotel.
“We have found that some of the pub regulars have come upstairs, but mostly we have attracted a whole new clientele, an age group of 30-65 year olds and those are people who wouldn’t normally come to the pub for a counter lunch.
“The feedback has been amazing, [with a] great response to the food and beverage offerings and our service, and surprised when they first walk in and see the room in its new glory. It is a very supportive community that is so thrilled to have upstairs available for use and to be able to take in the views of Lake Macquarie. Our Friday and Saturday nights are pretty much to capacity.”
The bar’s moniker was chosen by patrons on social media. The name has historical significance, as in the 1830s the hotel was surrounded by a dairy farm and orchard that had mulberry trees on it that were so large that the area was nicknamed Mulberry Hill.