Once upon a time there were pubs everywhere and they looked after their locals and maybe drew people in from neighbouring suburbs because they had a particularly good counter meal menu or the beer was always fresh and treated respectfully. They were good at ‘stickin’ to their knittin’ – keeping it simple and doing what they did, well.
Over the next decade Melbourne pubs seemed to go through a period of rebellious adolescence in which they followed every new trend, dressed in the latest clothes and chased each flash fad, much to the consternation of their parents. Some chased disco or pokies or all-you-can-eat-dodgy-buffets or Grab a Granny Thursday nights.
Some pubs just kinda kept doing the same old thing until they became run-down, dingy and, in too many cases, downright dangerous. Some, like St Kilda’s Grosvenor Hotel have risen like a Phoenix from the ashes of their infamous past to become a beautiful butterfly emerged from a dark cocoon. My personal memories of The Grosvenor, coupled with the tales told by colleagues who managed the venue in another life were almost impossible to reconcile with the first impression gained as we entered the doors for a Beer Dinner recently.
The first incongruous sight was that of a beautifully presented meat ageing room greeting diners on the way to the fresh and funky dining room. I seem to recall the use of cold steaks to ease the pain of injuries received by fellow patrons in years gone by but I was happily assured that these, in fact, would find their way onto our dinner plates before too long.
Under the stewardship of a couple of blokes who seem to know how to run a proper hospitality venture (and have done so in the form of some other well-loved eating landmarks) The Grosvenor stands as a beacon to those who would take a lonely waif, dress her up and give her a decent feed then bask in the reflected glow of a demure and cultured Princess. Well, sort of.
The Grosvenor has not tried to reinvent the wheel, nor has it tried to transplant what might work well in one precinct and assume it will do the same in another. St Kilda, at the point at which it becomes Elwood on the other side of the highway and before becoming ‘Brah-Tun’ as it snakes south east, is still just a little more grungy than chic and home to families as well as ‘Young Ones’-like Uni students. So I makes sense that The Grosvenor, in its remodelling, would be clean and tidy but with just a hint of ‘lights-dimmed-gently’ to create warmth as well as a little mystery.
The food, which I suspect has more than a little to do with steak genius, Justin Wise from Albert Parks’ The Point Restaurant, is adventurous without being too high-reachingly cheffy and makes good use of the meat aging room while not being a carnivorous-centric meat-a-thon. Seafood as well as a decent range of vegetarian and other dishes make the dining rooms attractive to families as well as those larger groups with a few fussy eaters.
For a review of the specific beer dinner attended at The Grosvenor recently, you would do well to check out Luke Robertson’s fine piece here http://www.brewsnews.com.au/2013/05/beer-spreads-its-wings-at-the-grosvenor-hotel/
For the rest of you, get down to The Grosvenor and check out what makes a good pub tick.