Sorrento’s Continental Hotel is currently undergoing an $80 million redevelopment, with plans for a public bar and bistro, a fine-dining restaurant, a champagne bar, an organic cafe, a wellness centre and five-star accommodation.

The refurb is a joint venture between property developer Steller and hotelier Julian Gerner, and is expected to take two years to complete.

Mark Healy, director at Six Degrees Architects (Top Paddock, Arlechin, Albert Park Hotel, Auction Rooms), says the majestic old pub carries a lot of meaning and memories for the Sorrento community.

“Having the pub saved from being carved up into apartments was a real victory,” Healy says. “If that had happened only a select few would get to experience what this building has to offer.”

The design approach was to strip everything back, to “let the building breathe again”, and restore the pub to its former glory.

“The old hotel had been completely run into the ground … it was a bit of a mess,” Healy says. “[But] the bones were still intact.”

Three new buildings will be added, using deliberately subdued materials such as concrete and black zinc to avoid competing with the Victorian-era design of the pub.

The bistro will be named Coppin’s Public Bar and Bistro after the Conti’s founder George Coppin. Locally sourced limestone was used in construction of the original, and this too will be echoed in the revamp. The restaurant will be called 1875 in recognition of the pub’s founding date. It’ll have a theme of old Hollywood glamour, with marble and detailed timber work. The Conti’s current, very purple nightclub will be transformed into a ballroom with 1870s Baltic pine flooring, and Healy says there’ll be a secret “oasis” bar, hidden within a central courtyard.

“You can have a casual beer in your thongs at the public bar … get married on the upper balcony … or wake up to views over bay,” he says. “Each space needs to be reflect the possibilities of these interactions and form a memorable backdrop. It’s about letting the old building tell the stories that have been captured in the beautiful thick limestone walls.”

The hotel and wellness centre fit-out will be led by architecture and interior design firm Ewert Leaf.

The Continental Hotel’s public bar, bistro, restaurant and champagne bar are expected to open in late 2019. The hotel and wellness centre are due for completion in 2020.