After the State closed its doors for nearly 2 years, it’s been interesting seeing things resurface. For some – COVID was unkind – people gained some weight, their hair become unruly and they let themselves go. Yet others used the time wisely, to undergo massive transformations and come out the other end of the pandemic looking better than ever. The same went for restaurants, and thankfully for Albert Park Hotel’s sake – it was the latter.
With a huge cosmetic face lift in 2020, this iconic boisterous gastro pub turned itself into a glamorous Asian pearl. Shmick moody interior, elegant finishes and sophisticated leather booths, they certainly nailed the brief of the right mix of ”casual pub” slash ”upmarket restaurant”. Sure, there’s still tv screens with the footy blaring to cater for the blokes and sheila’s wanting to catch the latest scores in real time. But it’s not just the sports fans who revel in the glory. After months of collecting dust in the cupboard, fashionistas can pleasingly flaunt faux fur coats and lockdown designer handbag purchases and it’s not just beers on tap, but a very decent vino list to amuse the more serious wine connoisseurs (French Beaujolais – tick ).
To compliment the bustling atmosphere – the restaurant itself has taken a full 360 – going from what used to be burgers and steaks – to ‘Happy valley’ Modern Chinese. So many mixes, yet strangely enough, it works.
Start with traditional steamed dim sum and crisp lettuce cups of chicken san choi bow. Interesting is their Southern salt and pepper calamari. Whilst left wanting for more, it is infused with aromatic flavours of curry leaves, toasted coconut and a burning stings of eye watering red chilli. A unique highlight is the fluffy spanner crab egg white omelette. A puffy mountain of creamy egg served cutely in the crustean’s shell alongside a pile of crunchy prawn crackers.
Honey pepper beef is dark, rich and robust. Big, bold flavours linger in your mouth after each bite. Peking duck is meant to be a standout, but with service occasionally a little patchy, it may not actually make it to your table, (but given the rest of the excitement going on, you’re not too perturbed, as there’s always next time). And for those wanting more, instead of more food, you could always sneak upstairs to the sexy lounge bar for some DJs, dancing and ‘dirty margaritas’ (or be sensible, just go home and call it a night – a great one at that).
Bottom line: Some have been unfortunate in COVID, while others found their mojo. Happy Valley Albert Park is one of the lucky ones.
Image credits: Simon Shiff