THE ICONIC BELLS HOTEL, STILL LEADING THE WAY THROUGH PUB HISTORY
STANDING out in a suburb famous for its pubs is not difficult for South Melbourne’s Bells Hotel - it’s been doing so for more than 140 years.
Named after the family that ran it for a record-breaking 71 years, Bells Hotel has long remained an institution loved by locals - even as South Melbourne itself has dramatically evolved over the decades.
Current owner Sam Tresise says that despite several reincarnations - the most recent as a stylish go-to venue for almost any kind of function - Bells Hotel was staying true to its past.
“You just can’t buy the atmosphere you get with a pub with this kind of history,” says Sam, managing director of Commercial Hospitality Group (CHG). “There’s real community affection for this place, and we keep that in mind in everything we do with Bells.”
Bells Hotel, taken over by Sam and CHG in 2013, has been lovingly restored and now features six separate dining and function areas, as well as a sports bar and several outdoor areas. The rooftop bar, with stunning views of the Melbourne skyline, is one of Bells Hotel’s biggest attractions. Another is its seamless blend of the old and new, with contemporary fittings, finishes and furniture working in perfect harmony with the pub’s charming original features, including the slate roof, chimneys and double hung sash windows.
Sam says Bells Hotel caters for parties and functions - including weddings - for anywhere between 20-400 guests: “With our ballroom, restaurant, bars and various function rooms, we can pretty much handle any event”.
Quality pub fare, thanks to executive chef Peter Anderson, is a major key to the success of Bells Hotel. (Peter also runs the kitchen two blocks away at South Melbourne’s The George, which is also owned and operated by Commercial Property Group.
Highlights of Peter’s new menu include oven-baked Barramundi, Moroccan lamb salad and share plates including honey soy chicken drumettes and more, as well as weekly pasta, risotto and curry specials.
Bells Hotel, designed by noted Melbourne architect M Hennessy, was first licensed in 1874 and named the Freer’s Family Hotel. Melburnian Annie Bell took over the pub in 1935 and it was renamed Bells Hotel in 1954, when the family took over the freehold.
The pub was handed down to Annie’s son, William, and eventually her grandson, Billy. It remained in the Bell family until 2006, marking the longest association between a family and a pub in South Melbourne.
Bells Hotel is open seven days. Kitchen hours: Mon-Thurs 12pm-3pm, 5pm-9pm; Fri-Sun 11.30am-9pm.
Bells Hotel is located at 157 Moray St, South Melbourne. For bookings call (03) 9690 4511, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit @bellshotelsm on Twitter, @bellshotel on Instagram and BellsHotel on Facebook.
THE GEORGE, SOUTH MELBOURNE 150 YEARS YOUNG
The Iconic George South Melbourne has turned 150, marking the latest milestone in the beloved pub’s already rich history.
The George - just a roundabout away from the famous South Melbourne Market - has always been an important community hub, providing a meeting spot for more than five generations of locals.
Today it is an upmarket venue successfully blending the old and the new. Modern bars and function spaces sit beautifully within the building’s 19th-century frame. Traditional pub fare joins forces with more contemporary cuisine, providing a mouth-watering double-act.
Owner Sam Tresise of CHG believes this focus on the future, with a nod to The George’s history, is the key to the pub’s winning formula.
“The George has been so important to South Melbourne for such a long time. It’s my job to make sure it’s just as appealing to patrons in 2015 as it was decades ago. I’m really proud we’ve been able to achieve that.”
The George first opened its doors in 1865, the same year legendary Australian biscuit company Arnott's was founded by William Arnott, Sir John Monash was born in Dudley Street and the Melbourne Cup, in its 5th year was won by Toryboy, the oldest horse to compete in the race as an aged grey gelding - he won the race by two lengths.
It was first licensed, and named The George, by produce store owner Patrick Reardon. After the lease expired in 1874, the hotel was auctioned - complete with furniture and “beer engine” - and was redesigned by renowned Melbourne architect Sydney W Smith.
Meanwhile, South Melbourne - or Emerald Hill, as it was then known - was a becoming a hub of activity, thanks to its proximity to the Port of Melbourne. It was also quickly evolving into a popular destination of Melbourne’s middle class.
Construction of the South Melbourne Town Hall, one of the suburb’s many fine examples of Victorian-era grandeur, was complete by 1880. And three years later, Emerald Hill became one of the first Melbourne suburbs to adopt full municipal status, and was re-named South Melbourne.
The evolution of The George continued decades later, when it was renovated in the 1930s. It became a favourite with locals, families, council workers, sporting clubs and businesses.
Before the South Melbourne Swans moved to Sydney, as the then Victorian Football League expanded interstate in the early 1980s, The George was the club’s local watering hole.
Fast-forward to 2006, and The George was taken over by the Commercial Hospitality Group. Under the guidance of managing director Sam Tresise, the renowned “TAB pub” began serving food for the first time in two decades. Today, it serves thousands of gourmet meals every week across breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Our executive chef makes the most out of the neighbouring South Melbourne Market, securing the freshest, in-season produce for his ever-changing menu. Highlights of the new breakfast menu, served on weekends, includes the Meat Lovers Brekky and pancake stack with maple syrup. The daily menu is as diverse as Israeli couscous salad and Bangers ‘n Mash. The George’s extensive wine list is complimented by Australian craft beers and multi-award imported beers on tap.
The George, South Melbourne, located at 139 Cecil Street, South Melbourne is open Mon-Fri, 11.30am-11pm; and Sat-Sun, 9.30am-11pm. For information call 03 9686 5655 or visit www.tsm.com.au