St Kilda’s beloved Hotel Esplanade will reopen this November, when leading hospitality group, Sand Hill Road, unveils its landmark development of the seaside icon. Restored to its former grandeur and glory, ‘The Espy’ will be home to a dynamic range of lifestyle experiences and offer a new dining, drinking and cultural destination to Melbourne.
While 140 years of history buoys The Espy, Sand Hill Road have not only looked to the venue’s proud past, but to its future for inspiration, and cannot wait to introduce it to a new generation of guests waiting to explore it for themselves.
Andy Mullins, Sand Hill Road Director, fondly recalls what the previous owners told them the day the sale went through. “They said that we might have bought The Espy, but we’d never really own it. It belongs to the people of Melbourne. We have always loved the pub, but we know that it holds a special place in many different hearts for many different reasons. There’s no other pub like it in Australia”.
The team has spent the last twelve months delving into the venue’s fascinating history and meeting the local community – residents, artists, bookers, comedians, managers, family and friends who have great memories of big nights in the Gershwin Room and the main bar – to help shape The Espy’s exciting new chapter. Sand Hill Road has brought together an army of talent to bring the vision to life and are currently recruiting 300 people to join The Espy family.
One of the most noticeable changes will be the scope of the venue, with parts of the building people never knew existed opening up. Visitors who remember it as two levels will now be able to journey from the basement stage and iconic public bar to the expansive main bar, garden terrace overlooking St Kilda pier, Gershwin Room, a fast-paced casual dining kitchen, Mya Tiger (a Cantonese restaurant with accompanying cocktail bar) and The Ghost of Alfred Felton (a sophisticated cocktail bar on the top floor).
The latter is a homage to The Espy’s most notable resident, Alfred Felton, a wealthy chemist and art-lover who lived and died at the seaside hotel. Archival photographs of his rooms not only inspired the desire to return to the top floor some of the character he originally gave them, but ultimately the spirit behind the venue. The team at Sand Hill have been cognisant of balancing the history of the venue with the new fitout. Sand Hill Road’s vision is ultimately to create a pub where all Melbournians feel at home. “We’re not trying to please one market, that’s not The Espy. We’re going all out to create a world-class cocktail bar, and then only 27 stairs away have 800 people looking out to the ocean, drinking beers and smashing pizzas or heading into a gig at one of the stages inside. Different types of people, there for different reasons, day and night. That’s always been The Espy – a melting pot of Melbourne”.
Food and Drinks
The Espy’s food offering will be led by Executive Chef Ash Hicks. At the heart of the venue is The Espy kitchen, a casual dining space in the pub’s old loading bay which will be transformed into a warm and open space, the workings of Hicks’ 60-strong chef brigade in full view, plus charcoal grills, pizza ovens and rotisseries working overtime to service the majority of the venue. On the bar snack front, Hicks will introduce offerings that are flexible, such as hot dogs served from food carts outside the Gershwin Room for those hungry after a gig.
Mya Tiger, a Cantonese restaurant at the top of the venue’s grand staircase, will offer fast paced Cantonese classics, with plenty of roasted ducks on display. The sensational views of St Kilda sunsets will be matched by stunning cocktails in the restaurant’s lounge.
Drinks will be led by Kevin Peters, Sand Hill Road Group Bars Manager, and Matt Skinner, Group Sommelier. The duo is developing a comprehensive drinks programme that will include several hand-selected cellars, a beer and spirits barrel-aging program.
Arts and Music
The Espy has always been, and will continue to be, the home of live music in St Kilda. Sand Hill Road will continue this tradition with three stages catering to the eclectic range of contemporary musical tastes. Rock-wiz creator Peter Bain-Hogg is on board as the venue’s Entertainment Manager.
“We want The Espy to be a destination for music-lovers from Melbourne, Australia, and all over the world”, says Bain-Hogg. “A trusted venue where they will be able to hear leading local and international artists, and see up and coming artists cut their teeth”.
St Kilda has long been a hub for Melbourne’s vibrant emerging and established arts scene. The Espy’s Artistic Director, Janenne Willis (Chairperson of New Wave Festival) will draw together a seasonal cultural programme aimed at continuing this legacy long into the future.
Hotel Esplanade has been designed by Melbourne firm, Techne Architects, working closely in collaboration with Sand Hill Road. The overarching design philosophy is “kick-arse Victorian grandeur”, an idea that honours the history of the 19th century retreat, while looking into its future evolution. Each area will have its own unique feel, from the sun lit terrace with retractable roof to the elegant and relaxed Mya Tiger, with its dark timber and rattan seating. Stylist, Eleisha Gray, has spent months scouring the world for original 19th century furniture and antiques that will be used throughout.
Hotel Esplanade, Opening November 2018
11 The Esplanade, St Kilda