There’s nothing sadder than a favourite pub having to close its doors – and when the Guildford Hotel was forced to shut after a 2008 fire, it was particularly tragic. The people of Perth didn’t just lose a watering hole, they lost an old mate as well. But following an incredible renovation, beer is flowing in the 130-year-old pub once more – and we couldn’t be more excited.
The restoration is committed to showcasing the history of the heritage-listed hotel, with original tiles, fireplaces, doors and windows all retained in the new design. Even the original burned wood has become a feature of the refurbished pub – and that’s pretty hot stuff!
But the Publican Group in charge of the restoration have put their own stamp on the venue as well. The new Guildford will feature a retractable roof, an upstairs whisky and gin bar (that’ll get you in the spirit!), and three giant meat-smokers in the beer garden. Importantly, there will also be 18 different beers on tap, Swan Valley wines, and pub grub that’s out of this world. We’re talking cheeseburger spring rolls, po boys, and a three-cheese toastie with kewpie mayo. Hold us back!
All in all, the Guildford Hotel is looking better than ever. We had a chat to John Ahern, director of The Publican Group, to find out more.
Hi John, thanks for taking the time to chat to us. Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you got started in the industry?
I started in hospitality after a five-year AFL career and fell in love with the industry. I worked in a number of hospitality venues in management positions and learned the ins and outs of the business. I invested in a number of successful ventures and in 2008 I formed The Publican Group with my business partner Steve Garcia. It grew quite quickly from a couple of properties to 11 sites across Melbourne and Perth.
How did the reopening of The Guildford Hotel come about after being gutted by fire eight years ago?
On first inspection Steve and I immediately saw the potential in the site. The bones of the building are spectacular and whilst we both live in Melbourne, every one of our Perth friends and colleagues had a story about the pub. It seemed really special to the people of Perth. We knew bringing the building back to life would be a huge undertaking, but we love a good challenge and couldn’t resist. I can’t tell you how happy we were to be able to relaunch the venue to the community and receive such an overwhelming positive response, Steve and I are so grateful for the local support.
How much of the iconic original building remains?
Our aim was to honour the heritage of the building in the fit out, we wanted to restore as many of the original features as possible. Throughout the construction process we found a number of hidden gems that we knew needed to take pride of place in the new fit out. We peeled back layers of flooring to find the original terrazzo tiles, we restored beautiful old fireplaces and have showcased them in their original position on the first level. Blackened wood from the fire wraps the walls and ceiling. Original supporting beams frame the level one bar, restored windows and original timber features atop the main bar and a classic door in the beer garden – everything we found has a special place in the new design. One of the largest projects we worked on was the construction of the belvedere that crowns the building, it was crafted with painstaking attention to detail and is one of our favourite features. Steve and I were thrilled the day it was craned into position on top of the building.
Who designed the new space and where did you find inspiration for the design?
We worked with local Perth architects, Fratelle Group. They did a fantastic job and have significant experience with heritage restoration. For us the goal was certainly to highlight all the original features alongside some modern elements. We wanted to bring her back to life but in our own way. Steve and I have a lot to do with the interior design, fit out and finishes, it’s a part of the process that we really enjoy, particularly on a build like this.
The menu looks fantastic, with offerings like fried cheeseburger spring rolls, Moreton Bay bug rolls and beef brisket. How do you come up with ideas for dishes and flavour combinations?
We have an extremely talented team of chefs who take care of menu design, headed up by our National Executive Chef Telina Menzies, WA Executive Chef Luke Firth and Head Chef at The Guildford Gui Escaleira.
The food itself is not limited by country or cuisine. Chef has crafted the menu around hand-held items you can devour whilst holding a beer or sipping a cocktail. It’s a really casual menu, with a heavy focus on smoked meats from the three smokers we have on site. The cheeseburger rolls are a must try in my opinion!
What do you recommend for an unbeatable food and drink pairing?
For me at The Guildford you can’t go past the Dirty Double – our double meat burger, with lettuce onions and pickles, matched with a Feral Sly Fox Summer Ale.
Where else in the area do you like to go for a great meal?
We have eaten at many of the venues in and around Guildford and it has lots to offer, I love the beer garden at The Rose and Crown, it’s a great spot.
The Guildford Hotel can be found at 159 James Street, Guildford. Drop by for a beer, or learn more about the historical pub at their website.