The Polly Woodside is a great old ship, unfortunately never to be sailed on the high seas again and rarely getting the attention or visitors it deserves. That’s all about to change with a new venue boasting a 1400 person capacity popping up under the shadow of its masts.

The Boatbuilder’s Yard is the latest project from Dave Sharry and Richie Ludbrook. If you don’t know them by name, you’ll surely know their earlier projects Riverland and Wye River General Store.

Riverland was one of the first venues to capitalise on the Yarra as a setting for a bar. Almost entirely outdoors, its prime position takes advantage of the sun and clever design allows it to be enjoyed even in winter’s bleakest hours. So this formula, having worked so well in the shadows of Fed Square, has drifted downstream.

Six Degrees architects have cleverly interpreted the new space – which stretches out over the river itself behind Jeff’s shed – with a combination of their signature open plan use of steel and glass and just a hint of the spirit of the venue’s namesake, with reclaimed timber and some subtle nautical flag touches. Overall, the space comes off a little sterile, but you have to allow for the surrounds of futuristic bridges and towering buildings amongst which it is nestled.

The food offering thankfully takes in the proven winner from Riverland that is the big BBQ. Organic sausages in white rolls are dished out from a satellite bar that flanks the side of the venue. A good selection of easy meals and bar snacks fill out the food menu with a Mediterranean slant. Breakfast is also on the cards with the place opening at 7am to cater for the host of crowds heading to and from surrounding offices and residences.

The drinks selection is disappointingly mainstream. The beers and ciders give little credence to the increasingly discerning palates of a savvy Melbourne drinking public. But if you’re drinking at the height of the sunshine, it’s doubtful that you’ll care too much. In contrast, the wine list is extensive, both by the glass and bottle.

This is the first of several major innovations in the area and will surely see people flocking in droves and providing some deserved attention for the good ship Polly Woodside.

The Boatbuilder’s Yard
Shed 4, 2A Clarendon St, South Wharf (Behind The Melbourne Exhibition Centre)

Daily 7am-1am