New age dawns for old favourite
By Gail Williams | Photos by Matt Jelonek
As the Subiaco Hotel was preparing to open its doors after a 12-month rejuvenation process, Gail Williams talks to its new owners.
Ssh . . . Subi! Psst! Quiet please!
There’s a grand old lady about to retake centre stage on the corner of Hay Street and Rokeby Road.
And she deserves your respect because this ain’t any old lady. This one’s been around for 123 years. She was pouring pints for thirsty timber workers when Queen Victoria was on the throne and serving sherries in her ladies parlour before Edmund Barton became Australia’s first Prime Minister.
She’s played host to emerging rock bands, dart competitions, ladies who lunch, visiting celebrities, colourful entrepreneurs and a legion of die-hard faithful locals. So, it’s no wonder the beloved old gal, the Subi Hotel, was feeling a little bit jaded when – after five decades at the helm – lease holders Judy and Michael Monaghan called time.
Along came Dave Allen and Lawson Douglas, two energetic young guns who were itching to revitalise one of their favourite watering holes from their student days. Not only do they share a passion for history and hospitality, they also know how to pull a perfect pint and connect with their customers – part of the job description for any publican.
They’ve worked that formula successfully at other historic pubs – the Rose Hotel in Bunbury, the Exchange in Kalgoorlie and their most recent venture, the Treendale Farm Hotel in Australind.
Says Douglas: “The pub is the backbone of the community. It is the third space, after home and the coffee shop where people feel at home. After a worldwide increase in pubs closing down they are now enjoying a renaissance. We love heritage buildings like the Subi and this will be a great meeting place for locals and now that we have given the building a new lease of life all we have to do is deliver a good product.”
After taking over the Subi in September last year, they rolled up their sleeves, closed down the joint after COVID-19 restrictions were implemented, and have spent the past couple of months applying the finishing touches on their 12-month revitalisation project.
And the doors are about to open on this reimagined iconic landmark – not with a bang or fireworks – but with a quiet gathering of Subi locals who have watched the transformation with interest.
“No, we won’t have a big launch,” says Douglas. “The venue opens the week of November 30 to locals, hopefully all of Subi. After all, it’s their pub.”
Douglas is reticent to put a ball park figure on the cost of the refurbishment which was carried out by Melbourne firm Technē Architecture and boasts a mix of contemporary and heritage in new entertaining spaces, two mezzanine decks above the old courtyard, a saloon and sports bar, bistro and a roof deck.
And for those who complained about the upstairs bathrooms from the last renovation, yes, they have been moved back down to the ground floor.
Douglas is also staying mum on the other hotly anticipated question: who is the chef? “No comment,” he says. “But expect gastropub food with healthy contemporary options. The point of difference will be everything will be made in-house from pickles, to sauces, stocks and dressings. We will support local producers such as Stirling Ranges beef, local Berkshire pork and our own bakery which started out in the Subiaco markets years ago.”
On the menu will be burrata salads, poke bowls, steaks and parmis, Fremantle sardines and seafood pastas. What no bangers and mash? The Subi favourite for over two decades?
No, sometimes – as the grand old lady sings – you have to write your own place into history.