The return of The Espy - bigger and better than ever

Hotel Esplanade executive chef Ashly Hicks.
Hotel Esplanade executive chef Ashly Hicks. Photo: Supplied

 The Espy has gone through many changes in its 140 years, but none so dramatic as those announced by hotel group Sand Hill Road.

When the heritage-listed St Kilda landmark reopens in November, it will have two restaurants, four bars, three live music stages (including the famous Gershwin Room), a garden terrace and a hot dog cart, each with its own ambience thanks to Techne Architects.

"Trying to please one market is not the Espy," says Sand Hill Road director Andy Mullins. "That's never been the Espy. We want all types of people for all types of reasons, at all times of day and night."

Executive chef Ashly Hicks (Garden State Hotel, ex-Circa) will oversee the food offering. The Espy Kitchen, a casual, pizza-slinging, rotisserie-spinning eatery in the pub's former loading bay, will be at the venue's core. And what's a sunset sea view without fresh local seafood and beers to accompany it? 

Upstairs, the more upmarket Mya Tiger restaurant, complete with a display of roasted ducks, will offer a variety of Cantonese classics done with an irreverence that befits the rebel Espy spirit. Beef, pork, chicken, duck and seafood will be the focus, with a head chef to be announced soon. 

There will be no shortage of drinking spots either. There'll be the main bar and the public bar, and a cocktail bar attached to Mya Tiger. But the showpiece will be The Ghost of Alfred Felton, a refined cocktail bar on the top floor named for the Hotel Esplanade's most notable resident, an art collector and philanthropist whose 1905 bequest to the National Gallery of Victoria has allowed the gallery to acquire more than 15,000 artworks.

"The Espy has so much history behind it and there are just so many people with a very set, certain idea about how it should be", says Hicks. 

You have to stay true to what it was, but also move it forward. We want people to be excited about the level of thought that's gone into each part."

"From rotisserie rolls and wood-fired pizzas before seeing a gig, to smashing oysters and shellfish at sunset, or sampling some of the most vibrant Cantonese flavours in the city by night, it's going to be quite a food journey."

Sand Hill Road, which also owns the Garden State Hotel, the Terminus Hotel and the Prahran Hotel, among other Melbourne venues, bought the iconic Victorian pub in March last year. Other than the odd gig at the Gershwin Room, the Espy has sat empty since May 2015.