The Espy is back, and it is arguably better than ever. Sand Hill Road, the hospitality group behind Garden State Hotel, the Waterside Hotel and Prahran Hotel, has risen to the challenge of preserving the iconic St Kilda hotel.
All up, there are 12 bars, two kitchens, 60 chefs, 200 beer taps, three music stages and a podcast studio across the Esplanade Hotel's five levels.
Every care has been taken to preserve the soul of the venue while providing something new. Take the Gershwin Room. Beyond a good scrub and a new sound system, the famous bandroom, which has hosted the likes of PJ Harvey, The Living End, and Public Enemy as well as music quiz show RockWiz, is virtually untouched.
On the other hand, the front terrace is unrecognisable. Stripey umbrellas and a retractable glass roof speak more of the pavilion's seaside location than its grungy history.
The polished main bar contains 100 or so of the venue's 200 beer taps. A 70-seat Cantonese restaurant, Mya Tiger, has been added, with an adjoining cocktail bar with booths and bar stools upholstered in emerald velveteen.
On the top floor, cocktail bar Ghost of Alfred Felton honours the hotel's most notable resident, a man remembered for the huge donations he made to charities and to the NGV after his death in 1904. The bar is an attempt to restore his former rooms, and everything from the slightly musty, sandalwood-y scent that is fed through the air vents, to the squishy chesterfields, zinc-topped whisky bar and the books on the shelves has been considered.
The attention to detail throughout the venue is impressive, and this extends to the Espy Kitchen. Overseen by executive chef Ash Hicks, the kitchen itself features two grills, two wood-fired pizza ovens and a rotisserie, and it is the equipment that informs the menu – think grass-fed beef from the grill section, French-style rotisserie chicken, and pizzas. Naturally, there is a seafood section, including a raw bar and daily crudo, lots of salads and desserts such as soft serve. Again, there is something for everyone.
It all opened on Friday, except Mya Tiger, which will open on December 3. The reborn Espy might just be the mouth-to-mouth St Kilda needed. Welcome back.
Open Wed-Fri 11am-late, Sat-Sun 9am-late.
11 The Esplanade, St Kilda, 03 9534 0211, hotelesplanade.com.au