The Garden State Hotel, a new CBD pub with room for more than 800 punters, is now open. And it already seems to be part of the Flinders Lane fabric – thousands of drinkers and diners have visited its four enormous levels since it opened in July.
The entire venue is built around a central atrium decked out with full-grown trees and glowing spheres. Steps lead down to an indoor garden with seating along the balconies and across the tiered platforms. The venue is divided into distinct dining spaces.
The front bar on Flinders Lane, for example, is a classic pub, complete with sport on giant TVs. If you enter from Duckboard Place you’ll find the Rose Garden, a laneway bar serving cocktails in a dimly lit cellar space. Upstairs is the Garden Grill, a traditional bistro with bentwood chairs, tall windows and peach-pink highlights. There are also private dining spaces that can host anything from dinner for up to 20 to cocktail parties for 120.
Three separate menus are served across the venue, all designed by ex-Circa head chef Ashly Hicks. A more formal selection is offered at the Garden Grill and the Rose Garden, with a-la-carte options, including a fennel pollen-cured snapper and a Wagyu skirt steak.
A counter menu is available over the bar, with options such as a toasted broccoli and salted ricotta on casarecce pasta and the obligatory parma. There’s also a selection of share plates, which includes a single piece of braised Flinders Island lamb. It’s easily pulled apart and served on the six soft milk buns that accompany it.
The self-order kiosk (which wasn’t working when we visited twice) is the most casual dining option. It’s smashing out three-cheese toasties and shoestring fries all for around $10.
While the emphasis is firmly on casual dining, Hicks says he’s still committed to high-quality produce. “It’s all based on traditional pub-meal classics, but they’re a bit more modern,” he says. “I’ve still got all the suppliers I used at Circa.”
The booze selection is equally democratic, spanning Carlton Draught delivered direct from the brewery and dated on the tap, to simple but effective cocktails such as a San Fran-style Margarita and the reliable Dark and Stormy.
Ultimately, The Garden State Hotel entirely accomplishes what it sets out to achieve: a casual Aussie pub for all hours with something for pretty much everyone. And we can drink to that.
The Garden State Hotel
101 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
(03) 8396 5777
Sun to Thu 11am–12am
Fri & Sat 11am–5am
This article was updated on September 9, 2016.