The Portsea Hotel
The Portsea Hotel is one of those businesses that could do the bare minimum and still find success, purely because of its location. The huge, Tudor-style pub backs onto Portsea Front Beach and affords glittering views of Port Phillip Bay. It throngs with drinkers all summer long, who come from as far away as Rosebud and Rye. If you’re hoping to snare a table, you’d best arrive early.
Current operator Colonial Leisure Group, which runs just over a dozen good pubs around Australia, thankfully hasn’t overly relied on this knockout location. Over the years it’s completed several renovations and kept the pub looking fresh-faced, rather than the 1876 baby it is.
The handsome Longshore Room feels more like a restaurant than anything else. Wicker chairs, leather banquettes, dark carpet and a plethora of potted greenery give way to a tiled alfresco area and French doors. This alfresco area doglegs around the back and side of the building to merge with the main bar and beer garden, where you’ll find whitewashed timber tables and smart blue and white umbrellas.
The food and drink, too, have been kept well up to date. Twelve beer taps pour easy-drinkers suited to the beach-y vibe, including Asahi, Cricketer’s Arms, Balter, Mountain Goat, Great Northern and Panhead. Likewise, wines from upstart producers such as Vinteloper and Alpha Box & Dice are in the mix alongside established Mornington Peninsula locals such as Montalto, Quealy and T’Gallant. Be warned: getting drinks often involves queuing, even though the bartenders are well trained and efficient (on the flipside, they’re often perfunctory, too).
As you enter, look out for Fatto Da Mama (“Made by Mum”), the open, white subway-tiled kitchen that churns out proper woodfire pizzas and sliced-to-order salumi. A separate kitchen takes care of well-executed pub classics such as steaks, burgers and fish and chips. As at any pub, orders are placed at the bar and delivered directly to tables by staff.
The upstairs hotel rooms (from $160 a night in off season) echo the fresh coastal theme found downstairs, combining whitewashed timber cladding, rattan-coloured carpet and dark blue curtains.