In Changing Times by Clyde Mooney

Click here to share this article with a friend

Sand Hill Rd has thrown open its reinvigorated Waterside Hotel in Melbourne’s ‘edgy’ King St, prophesying new life for the old Hotel and district.

Built on the prominent corner of Flinders and King Streets, in the late 1800s the Waterside Hotel was the first port of call and greeting point for people arriving in Melbourne via the Yarra River.

Melbourne pub specialists Sand Hill Rd (SHR) purchased the Waterside in May, citing minimal plans for changes – at the same time but separate to the group’s purchase of St Kilda’s Esplanade Hotel, ‘The Espy’.

The three-storey brick pub has now reopened, with a collection of themed zones to entice the area’s growing high-end residential and office property inhabitants.

“These amazing 100-year-old spaces didn’t need to be rebuilt, they just needed to be beautiful again,” offers SHR director Matt Mullins.

“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.”

Street level of the Waterside now offers the Ale House – specialising in rare, predominantly American craft beers, and the Chophouse – an “old-world style” dining space, specialising in top quality cuts of meat, including a 1.2kg Rangers Valley Black Onyx Angus Tomahawk (serves 4), grilled to perfection by head chef Stuart Munro. Beyond the beef, the menu sports a good selection of seafood and vegetarian dishes.

Rounding out the ground floor is the Doghouse – described as a cross between a dive bar and an American sports bar, serving American-style hot dogs, tinnies and bottled cocktails ‘til late.

“[The Doghouse] is where you go when you’re in trouble, or want to get in trouble,” says Mullins.

Level one sees the Bubblehouse – dedicated to cocktails and champagne, the drinks list curated by Kevin Peters, formerly of bar mecca Eau De Vie.

Level two is The Roof (formerly known as The Deck) – one of Melbourne’s original rooftop bars, with amazing views of the city skyline. The Roof offers scaled-down versions of the Ale House and Chophouse menus.

Mullins reports travelling the world in search of unique pieces for the Waterside, scouring markets, farmyards and warehouses in England, France and Spain, securing antiques, art and vintage light fittings.

But integrating local history, four large banquettes from The Espy’s famous Gershwin Room have been resurrected as the perfect seating solution in the Chophouse.

Amid an influx of quality development in the “colourful” south-east quadrant of the CBD, Mullins says a city like Melbourne doesn’t leave a prime location underutilised for long and believes King Street will mature into a busy, upmarket hospitality precinct.

“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.”

SHR now own and operate nine pubs and bars in the Victorian capital, including the highly praised Garden State Hotel, which the group opened mid-2016.

Currently executing some pop-up events at the historic St Kilda live music institution that is The Espy, the group hope to reopen the five-level pub in late 2018.

Team cocktail training prior to opening at the Waterside

Waterside Hotel Melbourne