Once deemed a “glorious eyesore”, Ballarat’s Provincial Hotel on the Yarrowee River in the Central Highlands of Victoria has been given new life after extensive renovations.
Built in 1909, the hotel is listed on the Victorian Heritage database. Now, under the ownership of husband and wife Simon and Gorgi Coghlan, and business partner Drew Harry, it has been transformed into a bespoke hotel and restaurant.
Gorgi Coghlan told Broadsheet that the inspiration for the design ranged from the relaxed coastal vibes of Halcyon House, in Cabarita Beach NSW, to New York’s sophisticated Firmdale Hotels. She was inspired to take over the hotel by her love of the book Hotel Pastis, in which a man buys a hotel in a small French village. Each suite is unique, designed by Coghlan along with interior designer Kathryn Mills and interior stylist Genevieve Manley, decorated with a mix of older pieces (many of which are from local antique stores) and more contemporary items.
“It’s a real blend of respect, and a nod towards Victorian art and Victorian heritage,” Coghlan says.
An ivory and blue colour scheme has been used for most rooms, and for the ground level restaurant, Lola, but one room is adorned with Coghlan’s favourite colours – pink and green – with green velvet couches and a pink, green and blue headboard.
In every room, and in hallways and alcoves throughout the two-level building, small, mismatched vases of flowers sit on tables, and piles of blue books line shelves. There are works by local female artists including abstract floral and botanical painter Susan Nethercote, and artist and graphic designer Mardi Featherston.
Coghlan is on hand to advise on local restaurants (try the Forge Pizzeria, or tiny 16-seater Underbar – but you’ll need to book), galleries and wineries, but if you’d rather stay in, every room has an Apple TV as well as a selection of essential oils designed to relax or invigorate. There’s a train station over the road, too, so you can leave the car at home if you choose. Coghlan says she wants visitors to feel the warmth of staying in a friend’s home.
“There’s that feeling of being spoilt and feeling warmth and luxury … It’s like staying at a friend’s house, who just happens to be a really good stylist,” she says.
Lola restaurant is named after exotic dancer and actress Lola Montez, who visited the Goldfields in 1855. Settle into one of the comfy navy-leather banquettes or a roomy cane chair for European-inspired dishes by head chef Shaun Thomson, who’s spent time as demi chef at Neil Perry’s Rockpool.. On the menu there’s Great Ocean Road duck salad with prosciutto and fig, and zucchini flowers with pumpkin and lemon myrtle oil.
Wines are mostly local – with the exception of a few Euro bottles, almost everything is from within 150 kilometres of Ballarat – including drops from nearby Latta and Attwoods wineries. Local sommelier and winemaker Troy Walsh, and Paul Ghaie (Blackhearts & Sparrows), who is a school friend of Simon Coghlan’s, are behind the list.
The Provincial Hotel is at 121 Lydiard Street North, Ballarat. Rooms start at $195 per night.