The team behind the recently relaunched Mount Erica Hotel feels like it’s given the community its pub back. The crowds that have settled in at the bar, filled the dining room and packed out the courtyard since it opened suggests the feeling is mutul.
“It’s lived a few different lives in the last 10 or 15 years, and it’s probably turned a few people away,” says co-owner Matt Vero. “We just wanted to do something that’s a bit more stable. A local community pub where people feel more welcome.”
Vero and business partners Will Benjamin and Callan Hitchens (the trio also owns Fitzroy’s Marquis of Lorne and Richmond’s Union House with Steve Rowley) have teamed up this time with chef Sean Donovan of the Fitzroy Town Hall Hotel.
The historic hotel on the corner of High Street and Williams Road has been dramatically overhauled with the help of Wendy Bergman of Bergman and Co. Once tired and drab, the exterior has been painted white, and the new interior strikes the balance between a warm, classic pub without being too “grungy”, Vero says.
In the front bar, Bergman got rid of a series of blacked-out windows allowing plenty of natural light to flood in. A rickety stage in the corner has been removed, opening up the space. There are plenty of seats at the bar and a series of high tables to set up at with a pint and watch cricket on the telly.
“No one had ever spent any time rethinking the space, so it was nice to pull it all apart and start again,” Will Benjamin adds.
That means almost all the surfaces and fixtures are new, from floor to ceiling. Even the old windows – described by Benjamin as “TAB from the ’90s” – have been replaced with contemporary frames.
The dining room showcases Bergman’s creative flair, with wood-panelled walls, wicker-backed banquette seating and tartan cushions. The team likens the vibe to a Wes Anderson movie, with a touch of Euro-hotel lobby. You could take a date, have a birthday lunch with group of friends, or treat your nan to lunch – no one will feel out of place. There are also two outdoor areas, one of which will be extended in coming months.
Donovan has installed a rotisserie – an entire section of the menu is devoted to meats cooked on it – to complement counter go-tos such as schnitzel, steak and burgers. Starters are a little more audacious, with a refreshing – and retro – prawn cocktail; kingfish sashimi with a lovely soy and mirin dressing; and pork terrine with toast. “Dono’s World Famous Steak Night” happens every Tuesday and offers a 300-gram porterhouse with salad and chips for $18.
“We’re conscious of having that value-for-money offering,” Vero says. “It’s authentic to pubs of a bygone era.”
The Mount Erica might be new, but the approach is considered, and best of all, classic.
Mount Erica Hotel
420 High Street, Prahran
(03) 9529 8250