The Woodlands Hotel
With several local beers on tap and another 60-plus bottled varieties, it’s safe to say that the guys at the Woodlands Hotel take the beer thing pretty seriously. Owner Hayden George and bar manager Warwick Coleman spent several years exploring all things porter, pilsner, stout and cider when working together at the Belgian Beer Cafe. At The Woodlands, the pair have eschewed old-world tradition and bland, big name producers to focus instead on providing high-quality, small-batch producers to a broader Melbourne public. Brewers from as far afield as Gippsland, Mount Beauty, Mildura and Bright are featured and tap beers rotate regularly to keep things interesting. Wines, too, are a local-only affair and prices are refreshingly decent.
The pub’s unique interior is another very distinct point of difference and is itself well worth crossing town for. Originally built in the 1850s, the space now showcases the distinctive work of local artist Blokk, also responsible for designing the CBD’s Carlton Hotel. At The Woodlands, he has created a fantastically whimsical refurb that is best described as the Mad Hatter’s opium den meets a gothic, church-like, farm shed – definitely something that has to be seen to be appreciated.
The menu here is classically modern Australian, and features a good blend of classic staples with flavours from further afar. Dishes such as the Southern Indian pumpkin and coconut curry, sit alongside the beer battered flathead with hand cut chips and house made tartare sauce.Many of the dishes are designed to be shared and prices are kept pub-appropriate.
The lounge upstairs is perfect for an office function or animated celebration; the decor alone is enough to inject some spice into laborious small-talk should a night with the office crew start getting tedious.