2 Gale St, Woolwich NSW
(02) 9817 2204 or www.woolwichpierhotel.com.au
A local pub that bucks the shabby trend.
Tuck into a bucket of prawns on the terrace and admire Sydney Harbour from your prime position on the peninsula, old chap — the newly made-over Woolwich Pier Hotel is happy to make your acquaintance. The pub re-opened in August and is proving to be a destination not just for locals, but the occasional out-of-towner who likes stately design and gourmet food.
Originally constructed in the 1880s, the Pier was acquired by Halcyon Hotels (owned by Medich Corporation) in 2011. Boss Anthony Medich was inspired by various far-flung locations of the British Empire in its glory days, as well as the modern British gastro-pub movement, and enlisted both SJB (which has worked on the hotel previously) and Luchetti Krelle to bring his vision to life.
There is no shortage of places to explore at the Pier. There’s The Terrace, The Lawn, The Clubhouse, the outside Pavilions, the Dining Hall, the scenic Balcony and the Good Room for private dining. Group Operations Manager at Medich Corporation Will Talbot describes the hotel’s collection of spaces as being variations on a theme: “The wraparound balcony has shades of West Indian colonial to it,” he explains. “The main bar in the atrium is like a traditional English dining hall, while the outdoor areas are inspired by traditional English sports clubs.”
Talbot says that with the pub’s relaunch came a new focus on community spirit. Now, the Pier supports more local community and sporting groups (and charities) and management has also established a Social Club scheme that rewards patrons for signing up and being regulars. “That was an initiative we wanted from the onset: to have a more local, community focus,” he says. “Which has definitely seen a lot more locals return to the pub, especially Monday through to Friday.”
An understanding of the local Hunters Hill and Woolwich areas of Sydney was key to the success of the interior architecture, explains Jonathan Richards, a Director of Interior Design at SJB’s Sydney offices. “Hunters Hill is a really old part of Sydney,” he says. “It has some beautiful buildings, it’s an affluent area, I would say it’s a reasonably conservative area, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. It has an established feel about it.” In addition to this character, he adds, that being on a peninsula, it means it’s a geographical cul-de-sac. “So in that sense it has a very village-like atmosphere through the area of Woolwich and Hunters Hill. We worked up this idea with the client of having almost a local village and picking up on that idea of it feeling established, and having almost English styling throughout the whole space.
“That’s a really important thing in my opinion, that hotels and pubs feel right for their location.”
A large part of the job was creating more intimate spaces within the hotel to add to the variety of experiences available. “It’s a family-oriented pub, and a food-oriented pub, the Woolwich Pier Hotel, so it needed plenty of dining space,” Richards says. “It needed places for privacy and for functions but it also needed places to feel like a big open space, like a pub is — for it to actually feel as though there’s a good sense of scale to the venue as well.
“So that’s really important just from a pragmatic sense, putting design aside, there is a variety of different experiences throughout the venue. Obviously some of them outside, some of them inside, some of them very intimate. And what the pub lacked before this recent refurbishment was that small-scale intimacy, I believe.”
BUCKING THE TREND
The old-world look of Woolwich Pier is something of a departure from some current pub design trends in Sydney, namely the sometimes Mexican-inspired lo-fi trend. “There has been a real tendency to make pubs shabby,” says Richards. “They’re almost just thrown together, and they deliberately look cheap — that’s just a fashionable style going around the pubs at the moment.” In contrast, the team at Woolwich Pier sought out quality design and elements built to last, Richards continues. “It was quite a departure from all that sort of styling about the pubs, that pubs don’t have to feel cheap to be accessible — back to that idea of it being established.”
Complementing SJB’s interior architecture was styling by Luchetti Krelle. “The biggest design challenge was creating a venue that is approachable and friendly as it is always tempting to over-design,” says director Rachel Luchetti. “We had to keep ourselves constantly in check, editing the design to a level where it’s not intimidating and everyone feels welcome.”
Luchetti explains that older Sydney suburbs like Hunters Hill already feature British-influenced architecture from the 1800s — so the colonial theme is in no way out-of-place in the harbour city. Striking the right notes with the British Empire themes involved the right choice of materials and textures. “Bamboo furniture, timber shutters, palms and rattan mixed with antiques, artwork and treasured possessions brought over on a ship.” Extra details include the old captain’s chairs, a tuck-shop-like servery in the upper courtyard and distinctive silverware.
“We really wanted to put some history and soul back into the building following the previous ultra-modern renovations,” Luchetti says.
Creating a distinctive visitor experience makes all the difference these days, says Medich’s Talbot. “By designing what we’ve done — a unique venue — it helps contribute to people coming back and the pub being as successful as it is.”