Scott Didier spent most of his childhood in Brunswick. His grandfather used to drink at the East Brunswick Hotel (formerly the East Brunswick Club) back in the day. So, when the pub went on the market in 2017 he saw it as the perfect excuse to get the whole family involved.
“We all have an interest in pubs, most people do. It’s just something we could all get involved in and put our heart and soul into,” says Scott’s daughter-in-law and venue manager Jo Didier.
Jo’s three sister-in-laws all help to manage the near 150-year-old hotel. Casey Durkin looks after accommodation, Hayley Ingram manages social media and Jaime Didier, a florist by trade, delivers table centrepieces and hampers to hotel guests.
“We all try to put in our bits and pieces,“ Jo says.
The Didier family started renovating the pub earlier this year. It underwent an earlier renovation in 2015, but only operated for a short period after that, before sitting empty for over a year. A few features from the original remain, such as the ceiling’s exposed steel beams (imported from the UK) and the bar top, which is made from wood salvaged from Mornington Pier.
“The renovations were mainly cosmetic,” says Jo. “It has really good bones.” The industrial-style public bar got a fresh coat of paint, cosy booth seating has been reupholstered, and there’s a new stage for live music. Fitting, since the site hosted the likes of Jet, the Temper Trap and the Drones in its heyday. Less fitting is the mural of a young John Farnham, painted by artist Matthew Thompson.
The private cellar in the basement doubles as a dining room for up to 24 people, with a large wooden communal dining table, neon signage and a blonde-timber feature wall. There’s another private cocktail bar upstairs with marble benches, chandeliers and an outdoor balcony where a black-and-white mural of Johnny Cash resides, keeping a watchful eye on Lygon Street below.
Head chef Terence O’Sullivan is plating simple, booze-friendly food: ale-steamed mussels with bacon, cauliflower fritters dusted with cashew dukkha, spinach and ricotta ravioli with broccoli pesto and burrata. T-bone and hangar steaks are from Hopkins River. The hero of the menu is the one-pound meatball served with silky mashed potato and peas – an adaptation of a Didier family recipe.
“It’s something we’ve had in the family, and everyone’s added their little touch to the recipe over time,” Jo says.
Condiments are made in-house from local ingredients. “[O’Sullivan] was a little bit disappointed when some kids asked for real tomato sauce the other week,” Didier says, laughing.
Drinks-wise, you’ll find draught, craft and boutique local beer including Social Beast Pale Ale from Brewmanity Beer Co, Stomping Ground Bunker Porter, Brick Lane Lager and Stone & Wood Pacific Ale. On tap there’s Carlton Draught, Furphy and Coopers Pale. Blood-orange Espresso Martinis, burnt-apple Whisky Sours, and spiced Margaritas are also on the list.
Twelve boutique hotel rooms were redesigned by Neisha Johnson of Red Socks Design Group. Delicate chandeliers, plush velvet lounges and a dark colour palette form the dramatically stylish spaces.
East Brunswick Hotel
280 Lygon Street, Brunswick East
(03) 9381 5840
Mon to Sun 11am–1am