Taking its name from Victoria’s alter ego as ‘The Garden State’, the 700-seat venue is unlike anything else in the CBD.
Sand Hill Road, the hospitality group behind the beautiful hotel, has gained a reputation for creating interesting, dynamic transformations of unexpected spaces. Comprised of brothers, Matt and Andy Mullins, and Tom Birch and Doug Maskiell, it has a long line of successful gastropubs to its name, including Richmond Club and the Bridge Hotel.
With Garden State, the awesome foursome were excited to breathe new life into a particularly special location. Through their travels, they discovered the two things Melbourne is world-renowned for: laneways and incredible gardens.
The sprawling, multi-level beer garden takes centre stage, but greenery nestles its way into the space from the outside. With three large ficus trees that dominate the venue, a vast oak pergola adds an earthy, modern touch to the historical building. Established as a textile mill in 1886, the Sand Hill Road team has maintained the original façade and a majority of the distinctive saw tooth roof.
Techne Architects, the design team behind Fonda and Tonka, came on board to help create a venue that paid homage to this historical location. Enormous, yet homely and intimate, Garden State Hotel is built on a model of community pubs, and aims to be a meeting place for friends, family and colleagues.
On the ground level, you’ll be greeted by a traditional public bar, adorned by exposed brick walls; an enormous island bar; booths and bar tables; and a large, double-sided replace. Behind this lies a beer garden. There’s also a self-order kiosk that delivers toasted sandwiches and snacks in no longer than six minutes for those who are busy, hungry or both.
Behind the beer garden on the ground level, the Garden Grill is the primary dining space. Reminiscent of a New York grill with smoky mirrors, hand- blown glass pendants and dusty pink wall-panelling, the Garden Grill serves up modern Australian cuisine, with a raw bar offering fresh seafood, including freshly shucked oysters and a selection of ceviches.
At the basement level, there’s an intimate saloon called the Rose Garden, magically decorated with French crystal chandeliers, rose bouquets, vintage vases, and giant rose motifs, hand-painted by local artists. The Balcony dining room is found on the first floor, providing a private dining space for 18 people, and if you travel up a little further, you’ll discover The Observatory on the second floor. A glamorous, light-filled space for up to 120 people, it offers views of the twinkling lights of the city, ideal for those special celebrations.
Beer garden or jungle oasis – it really depends how you look at it. Either way, Garden State Hotel has snuggled its way into the city’s heart, becoming one of Melbourne’s most popular venues.