The Mount Erica Hotel has seen some things. Back when it was established as the area's first licensed venue in 1853, the corner of Williams Road and High Street was considered a bush setting. After two decades of operation, it was then rebuilt after a bushfire (yes, a bushfire) tore through the building. In the 140 years that have followed, the site has been through many iterations — some more successful than others. But the old Prahran boozer has been a constant even while the suburb around it has changed.
The team behind Fitzroy's Marquis of Lorne are the current custodians of Melbourne's oldest pub. The dining space has a theatrical, lobby lounge feel, clad in warm timber panelling and tailored tartan, while the lounge plays with dark blue and teal to create a laidback gathering place, complete with quirky art and a fireplace.
The menu centres on simplicity and sophistication with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern touches. Chef Sean Donovan describes the offering as "modern, fresh, produce-driven food", with a twist: a charcoal rotisserie. Chicken, beef, lamb, seafood and vegetables get the smoky treatment, bringing out the best of the season's produce.
Classic pub crowd-pleasers like sausages, fish and chips and chicken parmas are still core to the menu. The staples are joined by plenty of lighter seafood and vegetable dishes; you can snack on salt cod fritters and fresh oysters before moving on to the smoked trout and endive salad or the retro-inspired prawn cocktail.
With a range of 12 beers across 30 taps, you'll never be short of something new to try in the booze department. In addition to Melbourne's standard brews, you'll find local pilsners, pales and golden ales from the likes of Sample, Stomping Ground, Balter and Wolf of the Willows, as well as some hop-heavy and sour varieties from Kiwi breweries Epic and Liberty. Likewise, the wine list pairs straightforward classics with quirkier drops, all at a price point that'll keep your bank balance happy. Keep an eye out for the four cocktail taps with mixes rotating seasonally.
There's no single demographic — all are welcome here. Whether it's a Sunday spritz on the terrace, a roast dinner with the folks or a post-work pint, the Mount Erica Hotel is the place to go.
Images: Frances Parker.