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Great Western Hotel

Posted by: Tony Leonard | 10 December, 2012 - 10:44 AM
Great Westerm

Pub:                       Great Western Hotel
Where:                 204 King St., Melbourne
Phone:                 9670 4389
Date:                     9 November 2012
Score:                   13.5/20
Internet:              n/a


Here’s a quaint hospitality proposition that couldn’t possibly work: ignore every trend regarding food and wine, put on an offer, when stripped bare, is nothing more than a friendly place to gather and have a drink and see how it pans out in 2012.

Totally implausible.  You must a wow factor.

First- Get the best architects to redesign and redevelop the interior with whatever is cool, eco-friendly, minimal carbon footprint and a conversation starter.

Second - Food trend.  Surely a menu with sliders, tacos, and pizza, with burgers made from parts of an animal that have never been used, home bake a brioche and then you may have a chance.  Pork belly? Not in 2012. Have you considered Pork Testicles? Its all about nose to tail now m’dear.

Third - Wine.  Get a sommelier who, not only is the full book on Chilean wine but happy to write the gear up in Spanish and correct you if you don’t roll your r’s when ordering.

Ah, now you have something.

Or maybe not.  Enter the Great Western Hotel, King St., Melbourne.

Steadfastly bucking every trend imaginable, GWH is a haven for collars blue and white, men and women,  who like to spend a lunchtime or evening, standing around, having a beer (mainly) chatting with colleagues and choosing from the most basic menu.

And here’s the clincher:  It is outrageously successful.


Entrees:               Not really
Mains:                  $17
Desserts:             N/a
Wine:                    Perhaps, but didn’t see a list.  A couple of bottles were in a fridge!!


Simply put, the GWH is a throwback  to a long forgotten, non-OHS era when people gathered at lunch, stood around and bitched about their working lot over a couple of beers and went back to work and to my eye not a lot has changed.  Good.

It is clean, friendly and familiar.  The beer is outstanding and the small bar services two sides of the room with a very cramped TAB jammed into a neutral corner. A small beer garden backs up onto a lane.

The food is dispensed from Ronnies Galley, which in essence is really Ronnies Cloakroom.  Small,  so small, and neither the cook nor menu has changed over the years.

Here’s an example of their  pricing policy which I defy any wunderkind who can recite PI to 300 decimal places to work out: a special of a bowl of chips was $8 (big bowl too). The other special was a rump steak, egg and chips for $10!! 

Go figure.  The top price is $25 for a 400g New York Porterhouse, fully plated. All bases are covered.

Ronnies menu is basic, but the food is honest. Order at the galley, and when it is ready his crackly intercom announces for you to pick it up.  Think Yarra river and ‘would the person in paddle-O #35 come in please come in, your time is up’ and you got the picture.

The pub works. Friday night when a game is at Etihad has become a mecca for those in the city or coming from the ‘burbs. Try getting a seat inside.

If you’re reading about the GWH for the first time don’t be misled into thinking it's a blokes pub; far from it.   Such is the welcoming nature women make up a sizeable percentage of the customers.

There’s a limited range of wine available, but the secret to the success is familiarity.  Those behind the jump have been the owner/operators for years and everyone seems to know each other.


- Porterhouse 200g,  chips,  salad - $20. Looked a bigger size than the 200g, , good meat, cooked to order.

- Fish, chips and salad.  $20.  Plentiful supply of flathead, served hot, salad fine, good eating also.


Daily specials for a tenner, every basic staple of pub menus you have seen are there, great beer; it is a package long offered and still successful. No web-site, no advertising, no urbanspoon/yelp recommendations but the pub is the envy of many in the industry.

But why?

Well maybe, the GWH does what many in hospitality or retail Australia have forgotten to do - Serve.  Engage. Respect.

The flock keeps returning. 

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