In early March, just days after the Albert Park Hotel relaunched after a major overhaul, it was forced to close again as the coronavirus pandemic set in.
Now the old pub – which dates back to 1883 – has opened its doors once more.
“It’s pretty much a completely new build, but there’s a lot of design cues that have been kept as an ode to the history of the building,” says Colonial Leisure Group (Bimbo, Lucky Coq) general manager Brad Hammond. “A lot of the original brickwork has been retained. We really wanted to keep parts of it intact.”
Six Degrees Architects (Brae, Arlechin, Meyers Place) is behind the dramatic transformation, but the exterior has hardly been touched – the heritage facade and distinctive porthole windows were installed in the ’30s, and the all-white paint job happened in the ’80s.
“Albert Park is a pretty small, historic suburb built around a small strip, and we’re pretty much at the centre of that,” Hammond says. “It’s always been a locals’ venue and a place to congregate and celebrate.”
Inside, the fit-out is almost entirely new. The centrepiece of the 350-person space is a four-storey glass atrium that floods the once dim pub with natural light.
Downstairs, the front bar pays homage to the venue’s pub roots with original brick columns, bar tables and red leather booths. Further in, the atrium lords over the main bar, which has a fig tree growing at one end. Look up and you’ll see delicate paper lanterns and arched windows with rattan screens on the upper level.
There's also a restaurant, Happy Valley, named after a racecourse in Hong Kong. It’s decked out with soft timber panels, blue-and-white porcelain vases and antique Chinese cabinetry sourced by stylist Anna Roberts from second-hand stores.
Roast ducks hang beside the open kitchen, and a decorative yum cha cart gives you an idea of what to expect.
The menu is broadly Chinese, by executive chef Karloong Yee (formerly Yu Kitchen. Xiao long bao, or soup dumplings, are made with Borrowdale free-range pork, and a cold dish of raw yellowfin tuna is dressed with orange and sesame oil. A half Peking duck comes with savoury pancakes and plum sauce, and there’s also prawn toast, five-spice tofu, pipis in XO and Singapore noodles. For dessert, fried ice-cream with a fortune-cookie crumb.
Head up the terrazzo stairwell, past the screen-printed mural by design firm Spacecraft Studio, into the cocktail lounge. A curved bar sits in the centre, and there are rattan-backed banquettes that lend more privacy than the rest of the venue.
The cocktail list takes inspiration from Chinese flavours: the Espresso Martini uses Szechuan bitters, and there’s five-spice in the Old Fashioned, ginger and oolong tea in a whiskey number, and a Negroni-style drink has sesame oil.
The wine list highlights Aussie producers, and there’s a reserve list made up of back vintages from the Colonial Leisure Group’s cellar, with premium drops of riesling, burgundy, champagne and bordeaux.
The Albert Park Hotel
85 Dundas Place, Albert Park
03 8644 4095
Wed to Sun 12pm–12am