Pragmatic design and rustic cuisine make visiting St Kilda’s Newmarket a must

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St Kilda in Melbourne’s south has for years been tagged as a bohemian haven. It has housed a colourful mixture of down-on-it’s-luck creative (and sometimes ribald) inhabitants in the past, but for some years now, a burgeoning gallery, hotel and restaurant scene have revolutionised St Kilda’s original seaside angst to a position coveted as the heart of all things cool and culinary

A most welcome and recent rejuvenation to the area is the stunning Newmarket Hotel. The Newmarket is another in a string of success stories for Julian Gerner of  the Melbourne Pub Group. This latest incarnation of the trio is a gastro pub revitalised by Marc Healy of design house, Six Degress, who have also articulated the folds of its other Melbourne residences, The Alfred and Middlepark Hotels.

So back to the term ‘gastro pub’. One could be guilty of not quite recalling its meaning, but to clarify it’s basically a watering hole serving better fare than the standard T-Bone or pie with chips. The newly refurbished St Kilda institution has now ditched its previous Hungarian nosh for a smart selection of Cali-Mex inspired sharing plates. The ‘gastro’ tag definitely sticks here as the cuisine is the polar opposite of its thankfully distant cousin – the dreaded ‘pub grub’. Appointed Chef, Paul Wilson, has created a menu echoing the Hispanic culture of California with dishes like Nectarines and Serrano Ham; Octopus, Smoked Almonds and Padron Peppers; and rare breed roasts from a smoking hot wood fire oven or barbecue. Paired with boutique wines served only in carafes or premium beer (only on tap) the mix is a clever move forward in concept eating and drinking.

In terms of design, the most effective element here is in the way the new floor-plan zones individual dining needs and moods so effectively. On arrival one is greeted by a low-lit moody bar area that sits in the centre of all dining options. On one side you have the open and airy, more casual reminisce of pub dining in the Newmarket’s functional beer garden, whilst on the other you get a more formalised beneath huge concrete Tom Dixon lit arches that add drama and push regular dining into an ‘occasion’.

Heading to the very back of the venue, the group-booking crowd are also satiated with a stunning oversized chef’s table that seats 16. Hung from above the table are chillies, artichokes and garlic, adding a rustic, almost market-style vibe to the area.

So sure, great design and exceptional food are one thing, but can the service match the lofty expectations of such a dramatic refit in what is essentially still a pub environment? Absolutely. Staff refill promptly, monitor the flow of plated delivery, and are surprisingly well read in the Newmarket’s history whilst being in the know about the rhyme and reason behind its current design sense. Details down to the clever reproduction of the hysterical original wallpaper (business men dancing with prostitutes, that could not be salvaged during the renovations) to the original nature of the recycled boards used for the stunning chef’s table are willingly explained in detail from enthusiastic manager.

Like it’s brotherhood of staple hospitality destinations that dot Melbourne’s CBD, The Newmarket Hotel is likely, if not already, becoming one of the most popular foodie and design havens to be enjoyed in this controversial and historic suburb.

 

The Newmarket is situated 34 Inkerman Street, St Kilda.

Bookings on (03) 9537 1777 or visit www.newmarketstkilda.com.au.