The Sand Hill Road group have really got their 'gussying up an old boozer' formula nailed. Three years ago they gave us the Bridge Hotel with its indoor laneway, aviary and saloon. Then came the transformation of the Prahran Hotel into a tat-filled haven of drinking cubby holes. And now they’ve done the same to Abbotsford’s formerly scuzzy Terminus Hotel – spot the former patrons from the thousand-yard stares and aversion to touching the walls.
This time you’ve got five brightly tiled bar areas, spread around a jungle-y rope-festooned courtyard complete with perving balcony. Big angular struts cut through the place like bamboo, and inside, copper beer tanks are holding Melbourne’s freshest Carlton Draught, pumped in direct from the nearby brewery.
The SHR crew are always keen to impress that despite the fancy renos, their venues remain local boozers at heart. On a weeknight that’s true. We come on a Monday to find a scattering of blokes embracing their fresh-and-frosty Carltons, Fat Yaks and Cascades, eyes glued to the TVs and forks spearing cheesy parmas.
But we’d actually call it more a club than a pub. On a Friday, you have to swim, beer aloft, through a surging crowd of twenty-somethings who are busily swiping right on Tinder and air-punching to the greatest hits of the ‘90s.
You’ll want to book a booth if you want to eat. It’s all razzed up pub classics, supergrain salads and drinking snacks these days. The burger is a juicy good time with plenty of sour pickles and melted cheese clinging to the charred beef patty. We like the DIY crab tacos too – a stack of flour tortillas comes with battered cross-sections of soft shell crab and a mount of creamy celeriac ‘slaw. Build, add hot sauce, crunch. Vegans, you’re limited to chips, dips and a side salad, unless you count the jugs of gin and juice.
Speaking of hard booze, they push it, but theirs is a simple backbar designed to build rum and Cokes, Long Island Iced Teas and fruity, summery vodka drinks. You can get a nice Dark-n-Stormy-in-a-jam-jar for $12 (spiced rum and ginger beer with a big squeeze of lime). But we’d like to see a lot more care in the drinks-making if we’re going to fork out $21 for an Espresso Martini (vodka, espresso, Kahlua). Ouch. But you don’t really come to the Sand Hill Road venues for fancy drinking – you come to be amongst the action in a playful, pretty space. Come to prowl. Come for the dance floor. Just prepare for the crowds and the fact that $7 eats are no more and you'll have a fine time.