The Prince Hotel
Over the years, the hotel formerly known as the Prince of Wales has embodied the character of St Kilda in a single building, somehow absorbing the area’s eclectic personalities into one cohesive body.
In a previous life, the top storey was home to a shabby boutique hotel. Just below, the hotel’s restaurant Circa was a proving ground for some of the country’s best chefs, including Ben Shewry, Adam McConnell and Philippa Sibley. On the bottom, it was an Australian pub at its most democratic, with old rockers and veterans of the queer scene perched on bar stools, pint in hand, talking about the good old days.
All of this was by design, and the credit belongs in no small share to Frank and John Van Haandel, who took over and reimagined the Art Deco-era hotel in 1996. In 2007 John and his wife Lisa assumed control, before selling The Prince to businessman Gerry Ryan four years later.
Ryan and his son Andy have since completed an ambitious overhaul that’s sparked a new era for one of Melbourne’s most storied gathering places. Circa has been replaced by a light-filled, approachable all-day diner dubbed the Prince Dining Room. The rough-and-tumble front bar has been transformed into a smart gastropub; complemented by the addition of a European-style wine bar and bottle shop on the hotel’s Acland Street side called Little Prince Wine. And the boutique hotel has copped a fresh, contemporary refit that's better suited to the beachside surrounds.
The only facet of the old Prince that's stayed put is the beloved Prince Band Room, which was refurbished to refocus entirely on its function as a live-music space. To this day, it remains one of the city’s most enduring and iconic venues.