There’s an indoor-outdoor feel to the revamped Village Belle Hotel. Light streams in from many angles. Turn your head one way and you’ll see St Kilda bustle past; turn another and you’ll spot the atrium and garden bar with dark booths tucked at the back. Walking into the public bar, there’s a fresh and vibrant feeling, even though you know this place remains a pub at heart. A massive wall of TAB screens is a bit jarring, but it’s hidden around a corner.
Upstairs you’ll find on-trend pinks and blues in the Doulton Lounge; a spot for cocktails in curved booths soundtracked by live DJs. There’s a circle theme throughout the space, but its most apparent here with round stools, circular booths, archways and plate-sized circular mirrors dotted around the walls.
The owners worked with architects Techne on the $15 million revamp, which has taken the 128-year-old hotel from a tired old pub, covered in signs advertising for “Bogan Bingo” and “Wednesday Poker”, to a light, more welcoming space. Co-owner David Shannon says there used to be 46 different placards covering the building. Now there are three.
“There’s not many similarities apart from the public bar,” Shannon says. “We had a very good public bar trade and we were known to be a great place to come and watch the football, have a bet at the TAB, that sort of thing.”
Chef Matt McCartney (formerly the Lakehouse in Daylesford, and Chateau Yering) has come to run the kitchen, with a menu that includes a steak sandwich and chips over the counter for less than $20, and a 300 gram Jack’s Creek sirloin steak for $42
Tap beers are mostly from the AB InBev (CUB) stable, with the most craft-like offering coming from Carlton Draught stablemates 4 Pines. But you’ll also find Stone & Wood, Murray’s and a few other goodies in the fridge. Wines stay mostly local, with a handful of French and New Zealand options thrown in. Glass prices start at $8 for a Habitat Shiraz or semillon sauvignon blanc, and don’t go beyond the $15 mark.
Cocktails in the garden bar are takes on crowd favourites such as the espresso martini and bellini, plus shared options in the form of Pimm’s and sangria.
There are a number of distinct areas at the Belle, but the space flows. It’s democratic in that modern pub sense: most people will find something they like here.
Village Belle Hotel
202 Barkly St, St Kilda VIC 3182
(03) 9525 4000
Mon - Wed 11:00am - 01:00am
Thur - Sat 11:00am - 03:00am
Sun 11:00am - 12am