John Parker has been surrounded by old pubs for most of his life. His grandfather and father – both publicans – ran traditional pubs in New Zealand, and historic public houses were par for the course during his day-to-day while living and working in the UK and Melbourne. Following the reopening of the historic Royal Hotel on Wellington Street, Parker finally has an old pub to call his own – and he’s both excited and proud to share it with West Australians.
“I’ve always noticed what a nice old building and pub it was,” says Parker, the owner of The Standard who also opened Halford at State Buildings. “It’s an iconic building on the busiest foot-traffic intersection in Perth. It represents Perth, so we need to look after it. I would have cried if I came in and there was an international lager on tap with wedges and sweet-chilli sauce on the menu. It deserves more than that.”
“More” is an apt descriptor for the new Royal Hotel. Built in 1882 during the gold rush, the hotel provided accommodation for early rail travellers. Its grand Victorian-style architecture mirrored the prosperity the state was enjoying at the time. Sadly, the building slipped into obscurity with everyone from hairdressers to backpackers taking residency in the space. After taking on a long-term lease on the site in mid-2018, Parker and Charter Hall – the building's owners – fastidiously set about restoring the hotel to its former glory. Thirteen million dollars later, our man, it’s safe to say, has come good on his word.
Between its two storeys, the hotel can accommodate 725, with the impressive first-floor balcony able to hold 200 guests. Parker and co have sweated plenty of the details. Leadlight windows throughout the space have been meticulously restored, as have original features, including wooden doorways, the balustrade on the grand staircase and timber floorboards. The solid-oak bars are as impressive as the drinks being served across them (plenty of small-scale WA beers and wines, predominantly). Louvred glass and framed archival photos of the hotel adorn the ground-floor saloon.
“It’s interesting watching people’s reactions,” says Parker of observing the guests. “They were walking around like they were in an art gallery, which is cool and what I wanted it to be. I want the hotel to be a bit of a discovery.”
Among the things guests might discover: an intimate private dining room and bar upstairs, a trilliards table (a mash-up of billiards and noughts-and-crosses), and – perhaps most surprisingly – a karaoke room. An upscale 50-person restaurant – Fleur – with a private dining room is also on the way.
Executive chef Chase Weber’s menu is all about modernised pub classics: think roasted cornbread with maple buttercream; panko-crusted yellowtail whiting and Japanese-style fried chicken. As alluded to in September when Parker spoke to Broadsheet about the project, well-priced counter meals (think pork cotoletta, a Royal burger and a vegetarian pasta) are a key part of the dining offering with $20 meals available during lunch (12pm-3pm) from Monday to Wednesday. Food is available throughout the venue, although Weber and head chef Shane Middleton (formerly of Santini) are preparing to open the hotel’s dedicated restaurant in January.
The Royal Hotel was built during a period of great change in Perth, and it’s fitting that its latest incarnation comes at a time when the CBD is once again undergoing plenty of change. May this latest incarnation of The Royal flourish and prosper.
The Royal Hotel
531 Wellington Street, Perth
(08) 9322 1023
Mon to Sat 12pm–12am