In a suburb of architectural gems, Armadale’s Orrong Hotel stands proud. The art deco pub has been closed for nearly two years, but, like the rest of us, its return to society is overdue.

For business partners Matt Vero (who also co-owns Marquis of Lorne, Union House and the Mount Erica Hotel) and Scott Connolly (owner of Moe’s Moore Street Tavern in the Latrobe Valley), ushering the old dame into a new era was always more about restoration than renovation.

“Our philosophy in pubs in general is you’re only ever a custodian,” Connolly tells Broadsheet. “The pub’s nearly 150 years old. We just want to add to it; we don’t want to pull it down and make it something completely new. We’re only ever custodians and we’re just going to be a piece of its history.”

Connolly and the team worked with interior designer Bergman & Co (Poodle, Chancery Lane) on the fit-out, but found most of the charm was already there – just hidden. “We just kind of peeled back layer after layer until we found what we were looking for,” Connolly says.

The front bar’s false ceiling has been removed, revealing the original molded plasterwork. The worn pub carpet is also gone, letting the previously concealed floorboards shine – or else replaced with carpet Connolly says resembles “an old ’70s jumper your mum would make you wear” (in the best way). Where significant changes have been made, they’ve been done with respect to flow and accessibility. The old TAB has a fresh new coat of paint and a timber bar, while the snug bar now open onto a brand new courtyard. What was once the bottle shop coolroom has also been converted, into a pool and games room.

Chef Phillip Latta (previously of Bentleigh’s Wolfe & Malone) runs the kitchen, with a menu that centres around classic pub fare but also pulls from his wine-bar background. It’ll be a little limited to start, while the team find its feet, but will ramp up over time.

For the staple chicken parma, 300-gram breasts are brined, crumbed and fried until perfectly crisp, then topped with a sugo made from fresh tomatoes braised overnight with garlic and basil, three cheeses and Virginia ham. The Philly cheesesteak uses Wagyu rump that’s dry-aged in-house, while the pasta (including a truffle gnocchi dish) is also handmade by Latta and his team. Also expect a handful of starters for the opening, including cheesy, mustardy ham-hock croquettes packed with Dutch cream potatoes.

Keen eyes will notice the Orrong’s downstairs footprint – where all the magic happens – is doubled upstairs. Previously a living space, it will eventually become a function space and private dining room. For now, though, Connolly and the team are happy just endearing themselves to the locals. “Everybody that walks in says, ‘Oh my God, I was really hoping you weren’t going to turn it into a modern gastropub, and I’m stoked it’s a traditional old pub,’” says Connolly. “That sort of makes the heart smile a bit when you hear that.”

Orrong Hotel
709 High Street, Armadale

Hours:
Wed to Sun 11.30am–11pm

orronghotel.com