Sand Hill Road, the team behind a string of Melbourne hotels, is working on its biggest project yet: a four-storey pub at the former Rosati site in Melbourne's Flinders Lane. And they're wheeling a big gun into the kitchen to fire up the food side of the business.
Irishman Stephen Burke, until recently group executive chef with the Melbourne Pub Group (whose portfolio once included the Newmarket, Middle Park and Albert Park hotels), will hone the food ethos at Sand Hill Road's six existing hotels but a key part of his role will be to help shape the food direction at the Garden State Hotel, due to open in August.
Burke says it was a difficult decision to leave the Melbourne Pub Group after seven years. "But this is a chance to sink my teeth into something really significant."
The multimillion-dollar pub is taking shape at 101 Flinders Lane within the walls of an 1896 cotton warehouse, a site bounded by Flinders Lane, Duckboard Place and AC/DC Lane. As Italianate dining hall Rosati, it heaved with yuppies in the greed-is-good 1980s and was the scene for Kylie Minogue's 1988 Got to be Certain video.
In its new incarnation, the "new traditional" pub will offer a ground-level public bar and bistro, private dining room, basement bar and a leafy beer garden over three levels.
"Seasonally driven, local produce, wood-fired grill, European/Mediterranean" is Burke's broad Garden State food outline, which would sound like menu buzzword bingo if his CV didn't include earning two hats in The Age Good Food Guide 2007 as head chef at the Court House in North Melbourne and a stint at Andrew McConnell's Diningroom 211 before joining the Melbourne Pub Group.
Along with working on concept for the new CBD hotel (a week into the new gig he's talking oyster bar, plenty of grills, menus that change frequently), Burke is tasked with sharpening the menus at Sand Hill Road's existing businesses, Abbotsford's Terminus Hotel, the Prahran Hotel in Windsor, and the Bridge Hotel, Richmond Club Hotel, The Posty and Holliava bar, all in Richmond.