Lorenzo Logi visits the Centennial Hotel in Woollahra, a perfect example of how contemporary design and food are combining to create a radically new experience for pub diners.
July 25th, 2014
Not too many years ago, the phrase ‘pub lunch’ would have evoked sinewy rump and gluey gravy served amongst tiled walls and an indelible smell of tepid yeast. Indeed, in many parts of Sydney this is still the case, and the ‘$5 steak’, an almost romantic pillar of the workman’s lunch, is celebrated.
But amongst the city’s more youthful, inner-city, and outright posh suburbs, pubs are fast elevating menus, interiors (and prices) to create a whole new experience for diners.
At the crest of this tide are establishments like the Four-in-Hand in Paddington, Le Pub in the CBD and the newly refurbished Hotel Centennial in Woollahra. The latter of these demonstrates a particularly astute approach to matching the venue’s interiors, layout and division of space to the raised profile of the food.
Executed by Luchetti Krelle, the design is sumptuous without being opulent, and creates a warm, comfortable space rich in light and tactile details. Indeed Rachel Luchetti, Director of the firm, comments that they approached the project “as though it was an actual home, with unique personal touches and a friendly, welcoming environment.”
Integral in achieving this is the materiality of the project, which is textural and well-balanced. “All the materials used have a sense of honesty and purpose.” explains Luchetti, “Weathered zinc for the bar tops, bespoke brass trims and shelving with Kauri pine slatted bar front. Rough sawn oregon timber clads the walls and ceilings with Echopanel acoustic treatment. The custom furniture is mostly made from solid timbers and upholstered in leather.”
The new menu of the hotel, elaborated by Executive Chef Justin North, moves in parallel with the aesthetic philosophy. Hearty roasts are balanced by more delicate flavour profiles, and artfully spontaneous intrusions from mediterranean, asian and middle eastern cuisines add depth to the spread.
A point of difference in the dining offering is the ‘High Table’ concept; inspired by the original concept of the dining room table, The High Table offers a space for people to sit down together to share a meal. The long, tall table is custom designed with a solid timber base and marble top, seating up to 30 people. Accompanying this communal setting is a special rotating menu: Mondays are “Meat and Three Veg”, Tuesdays are “Favourites” and Wednesdays are “By Request” – giving diners an opportunity to engage with the kitchen as the Chefs face the challenge of satisfying guests’ requests.
All this is a far cry from the sweaty mash and dim lounges of yesteryear, and certainly reflects just how epicurean we have become. But is it a welcome rejuvenation of a dated tradition, or a yuppification of an Australian icon? The answer, I suppose, is a matter of taste.
Lorenzo Logi is Assistant Editor of Indesign Magazine
Photography of Centennial Hotel by Prue Roscoe
Four in Hand
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