Brunswick’s Railway Hotel Has Put Its Old Life Behind It

Photo: Kate Shanasy

You may recognise the Hotel Railway in Brunswick from those 2016 headlines, where the landlord of the Brunswick institution was busted trafficking drugs as a side business.

You might also recognise it as one of Brunswick’s most historically-rich locations, serving as many things—such as a morgue a hostel—as well as a popular drinking spot, over its 140-year lifespan.

But let me tell you, you might not recognise it now.

Having just re-opened to the public after a three-year hiatus, Melbourne hospitality collective, the Riverland Group (The Boatbuilders YardRiverlandPilgrim, the General AssemblyBang Bang at the Rifle Club), along with comedian Mick Molloy (random, but fab), have breathed new life into the site.

“Just like Brunswick, we want Hotel Railway to be a true gem of the north and reflect the suburb’s friendly, vibrant and creative vibe,” said Richie Ludbrook, co-owner of the Riverland Group.

“We also recognise that Brunswick is a ‘community of communities’, so we were keen to incorporate the flavours and influence of those who’ve migrated here into our menu, as well as highlight local produce.”

Walking into the newly refurbished pub, I barely recognised the place. Gone are the dingy hanging lights, the astroturf smokers area, the wooden trestle tables, the exposed brown brick. In its place is a spacious and light European warehouse space, complete with a Spanish terracotta courtyard, houndstooth patterned dining chairs, and an overall sleek, minimal and multidimensional space.

Photo: Kate Shanasy

“We wanted to pay homage to the people of Brunswick, and its rich history of immigrant culture,” Dave Sharry, another co-owner of the Riverland Group, told me on the night, “by including European elements in the decor and the menu.”

As for the space itself, there are five different dining spaces on offer, including a courtyard, pub casual dining, a dining room, beer garden, and a corner cocktail bar—which was a decision made after extensive research.

“We actually did a lot of research on the area and the kind of people that live here. We wanted to cater to our specific audience,” he says.

“We want this to be a space where your grandparents could come for a nice meal on a Sunday night, as well as somewhere you could come for a boogie and a cocktail late on a Saturday night.”

Photo: Kate Shanasy

“We’ve expanded the outdoor space to create an impressive beer garden, so Hotel Railway can be your favourite drinking hole rain, hail or shine,” Richie added.

They’ve kept many of the old features, celebrating the name and history of the original hotel, while also creating something fresh and new. Things like the original painted sign on the hotel’s facade and the original fireplace in the beer garden (which works and will be divine in winter) have been restored and remain in place.

“Being a multi-faceted venue was very important to us, given the importance of Hotel Railway to many throughout the years. We’ve kept pieces of history from the old Railway throughout, such as the original fireplace in the beer garden outside,” says Richie.

“Hotel Railway means a lot of different things to a lot of different people and it’s amazing to be able to breathe new life into the iconic venue and reconnect with returning patrons and new locals.”

On the menu, we devoured things like charred king prawns, housemade hummus, smoked cherry tomatoes, woodfire pizza, slow-cooked lamb shoulder and housemade pannacotta and peanut butter ice cream. The menu has Mediterranean undertones, taking elements from cultures that populate Brunswick, mostly being Greek, Italian and Middle Eastern cultures.

Photo: Kate Shanasy

From being an empty and slightly depressing site, to being one of the biggest hospitality venues in the north, with a capacity of close to 1000 people and a three-storey offering—I think it’s safe to say that Hotel Railway has had quite the turnaround.

Who doesn’t need a pizza, a cocktail and a late-night boogie in Brunswick on a Friday night? We know we do, and we’ve never really had the venue to make that happen until now.

On top of their impressive range of spirits, line-up of live DJs, epic cocktail and beer lists, plus their dedication to being Brunswick’s new local, the new Hotel Railway is keen on sustainability.

Showcasing their commitment to waste minimisation initiatives, the venue will utilise water-saving and chemical-free cleaning systems in the kitchens, utilise an on-site composting system, possess 45 solar panels and seek suppliers that use less packaging.

We really don’t have enough nice things to say about the new Hotel Railway. Seeing epic new venues pop up in already celebrated spots, and breathing life back into once lively hubs, is literally everything we could hope for in 2022.

Check out the new Hotel Railway here.

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