Melbourne University students should be on guard when they head across the road to the rejigged Prince Alfred Hotel because the new owners intend to keep you there long after your next lecture has started.
“We really wanted to create a place that’s somewhere you want to lose hours in,” says Daragh Kan, founder of the 100 Burgers Group (Welcome to Thorbury, Belle’s Hot Chicken and Mr Burger), which took over the Carlton institution late last year. “If you’re a uni student who rocks up for a quick bite, [you’ll get] so comfortable you’ll skip the next class. Before you know it, uni’s over.”
To achieve this Kan has made a few changes. While leaving the exterior of the 100-year old Grattan Street pub virtually untouched, inside walls were stripped, staircases moved and a lift installed. It's a very slick affair.
Architecture firm Hot Black – whose high-vis and hard-contrast fit-outs grace Straight Six in Kensington and Supagrind on Spring Street – were called in to splash around some metal joinery, floral wallpaper and pink surfaces. A rooftop garden was installed, as was a shipping container for pop-up kitchens.
For Kan, striking design is compulsory. “If you have the right fit-out it changes how you experience the venue. I’ve been to places with great food, but you just want to get out of there as soon as you’re finished eating,” he says.
But you can’t detain students with architecture alone.
“We still wanted to offer the classic pub meals ... At the end of the day a lot of people just want parmas.” Kan says. “But there are more interesting choices in there.”
Some of those options include za’atar-crusted tuna with house-pickled vegetables, green beans and 63-degree egg; lamb rump with roasted fennel and onion on pumpkin purée; and fried banana bread with berries, caramel sauce and milk ice-cream. On Saturdays there’ll be all-you-can-eat pancakes.
Kan’s last gambit to induce the skipping of tutes is 60 taps throughout the venue serving nine different beers – McCracken’s Amber Ale, Goose Island IPA, and unpasteurised Carlton Draught among them. “There’s nothing that annoys me more than slow bars,” says Kan. “We don’t want anyone waiting without a drink.”
Still, you’d be wrong to see Prince Alfred as your standard student boozer, with sticky floors and $1 Jager shots. “We want for it to be a venue with, yes, uni students in there, but the lecturers and nurses and doctors and hospital staff as well,” Kan says. “It’s not just a uni haunt.”
Prince Alfred Hotel
191 Grattan Street, Carlton
(03) 9982 1813
Mon to Fri 7am–3pm
Sun to Tue 11.30am–10.30pm