It was a busy year for St Kilda's historic pubs in 2018. At the end of November, The Espy reopened after three years behind closed doors and a mighty reno. Then, the new-look Prince of Wales Hotel launched its restaurant.
In 2016, Melbourne businessman Gerry Ryan and his son Andrew took over management of the pub — now just The Prince Hotel — and have since overseen a multimillion-dollar makeover, in with Melbourne's IF Architecture. Located on the second level of the spruced-up St Kilda haunt, Prince Dining Room has taken over the space previously home to Circa, which closed its doors after 20 years in 2017.
In the kitchen, Executive Chef Dan Hawkins (Stokehouse, Circa and Longrain) and Head Chef Dan Cooper (Circa and Garden State Hotel) are creating a Mediterranean menu, showcasing local, sustainable and ethical ingredients from local markets, the St Kilda Veg Out garden and a network of producers, growers and fishermen. Make your may through a selection of skewers and flatbreads — like Flinders Island lamb with fermented chilli, and prawns with sesame, lemon and coriander — or a main, such as the woodfired turmeric chicken with pickled ginger, and add a bunch of sides. The lineup of smaller bites includes options like baby cabbage with prawn butter, and woodfired zucchini with feta, almond and ras el hanout (Moroccan spice mix).
As you can probably tell from the aforementioned dishes, there's an emphasis on cooking with fire in the Prince Dining Room kitchen."Fire causes changes in flavour, texture and appearance, to provide a unique final product that cannot be replicated by other means," said Hawkins in a statement.
Cocktails do not use fire, but are instead fruit-driven with colourful concoctions like the Jackie & Jess featuring grapefruit juice and thyme syrup, and the bourbon-heavy Louis Li a mix of Aperol, amaro and lemon juice. A succinct list of local and international beers and wines — including a few quality $10-a-glass drops — rounds out the drinks list.
In coming up with the design, IF Architecture wanted to respect the building's Art Deco architecture and historical significance, while also adding more light and space. The centrepiece is an oval black steel bar, while eclectic seating — made by local and Italian artisans from metal, wrought iron and wood — and soft, curvaceous banquettes in brown, pink and green hues surround it.
Images: Gareth Sobey.