Albert Park's Beach Hotel has reopened after extensive renovations designed to breathe new life into the bayside pub.
It's another notch in the belt of Tom Walker, former director of the Melbourne Pub Group, which revitalised the Middle Park, Albert Park and Newmarket hotels.
The idea was to return the pub to its roots: good food, good booze and an Aussie pub culture, says Walker. "That's things like a strong sporting presence but one that doesn't overtake the pub, family-friendly and ... locals being a big part of the pub."
Despite its prime location, the Beach Hotel hasn't performed well over the past decade. The Collingwood Football Club bought the hotel in 2006, in what would prove to be a disastrous investment. Although the hotel returned to profitability under new owners, it's been a long time since it has operated at its full potential, says Walker, who's determined to turn that around.
He has joined two of the former owners of The McKinnon Hotels Group as an owner of both the Beach Hotel and the McKinnon Hotel.
Architect James Oberin has redesigned the pub, overhauling the ground-floor public bar, dining room and courtyards. It's stage one of a three-stage renovation.
"A lot of the physical changes we've made have been about making the place much more comfortable," says Walker. "It's even comfortable during winter – no longer just a pub that does some business when the sun is shining. So big heaters inside the premises, hearty welcomes and nice cold beers."
Chef David Marshall (ex Middle Park Hotel, French Saloon, Wilson & Market) is heading the kitchen, serving a mix of Aussie and British pub classics such as steaks, chicken schnitzel and fish and chips. At the bar, there's a 100-strong list of old and new world wines, beers on tap and a range of cocktails.
The final stage of the refurbishment will transform the hotel's facade. Once completed later this year, Walker also plans to return the pub to its original 1883 name: The Bleak House Hotel.
Open daily 11am-late.
97 Beaconsfield Parade, Albert Park, 03 9690 4642, beachhotelalbertpark.com.au