KEEPING THE LIGHTS UP ON CHRISTMAS
Victoria Hotel Spreads Joy to The People of Macedon Ranges
Woodend, Victoria – in the heart of the Macedon Ranges stands a historical landmark that has not only weathered the test of time, but has also reinvented itself as a vibrant hub for the local community. The Victoria Hotel, established in 1861, saw a transformative revival five years ago when it was taken over by its current co-founders. In an exclusive interview with Emily Blade, one of the co-founders, we delve into the unique features that make the Victoria Hotel a standout destination in Woodend.
Evolution from Victoria Bottle Shop to Mountain Shed
One of the most notable transformations at the Victoria Hotel is the rebranding of the Victoria bottle shop into the Mountain Shed. Emily Blade attributes this change to the competition that arose with the opening of Coles and an IGA, both equipped with bottle shops. The hotel sought to redefine its identity by focusing on supporting local businesses and offering a diverse range of regional wines, boasting an impressive collection of 50 local wines within the venue.
“The Mountain Shed was designed as a casual and relaxed space, complete with a full-sized pool table, dartboard, and a private bar, catering to the community’s need for a laid-back social environment,” said Emily. The introduction of a pub truck during the COVID era added a new dimension to the hotel’s offerings, providing a commercial kitchen on wheels for casual and takeaway food, making it a hit in the evenings.
The concept of a portable bar and pub truck for private hire has proven to be a hit, catering to various events and occasions. Now, it stands within the newly refurbished beer garden, with full-time employees dedicated to running the truck on weekends, with the hope that the locals accept it with open arms so it can run throughout the week (when it is not hired as a function space). “Our beer garden and truck also serve as a backup during regional blackouts, and that is part of our commitment to flexibility when the electricity in our small town runs out,” said Emily with a smile.
Christmas Day Lunch Tradition
The Victoria Hotel’s Christmas Day lunch has become a local tradition over the years, offering a stress-free and generous holiday dining experience. Co-founder Carl Middleton, a seasoned chef, ensures a diverse menu catering to both meat lovers and those with vegan/vegetarian preferences. The Christmas lunch has become a popular choice for various demographics, including small families, friendship groups, and those seeking a more affordable and relaxed celebration. The hotel’s unique decorations, including
a 3-meter Christmas tree and 45 meters of festive lights, add to the magical ambiance.
Rock and Wombat Bar: A Distinctive Venue
The Rock and Wombat Bar is a distinctive feature of the Victoria Hotel, designed to accommodate various events and gatherings. The venue hosts Christmas carols featuring the local choir, the Woodend Warblers, on the eve of Christmas, creating a charming and festive atmosphere for guests of all ages. The tradition has grown over the years, with four generations of attendees, showcasing the hotel’s commitment to building a sense of community.
Supporting Local Artists and Quirky Hotel Features
The Victoria Hotel goes beyond traditional hospitality by supporting local artists, displaying their artwork throughout the venue. The hotel’s quirky features, including a jar of Christmas goodies for a guessing competition and a paranormal investigation once a month, contribute to the unique and engaging atmosphere.
Excited about this year’s festivities, Emily says, “This time around we have the beautiful Natalie from Chalky Sign Writing. She is just amazing, and we are doing a Wombat themed maze on the outside for the kids to find all the wombats on the windows around the pub. We try to do something new every year.”
The hotel’s commitment to local causes is evident in initiatives like the Chooka Raffle, supporting the SES, and a two-course Christmas menu available every day until the 24th of December.
In conversation with Co-owner and Head Chef, Carl Middleton
The one thing that is evident besides his very English accent, is Head Chef Carl’s dedication to local sourcing and a commitment to consistency in menu offerings. “You see these grey hairs?” Carl responds when questioned about the young talent that surrounds him in the kitchen daily. They look eager to learn a thing or two about the various cooking techniques from him.
Carl, who brings his expertise from working at multi hatted kitchens and the likes of Hilton in England, emphasises the importance of supporting local businesses and maintaining menu consistency. “Creating a menu is not the hard part, the hard part is consistency. To get that right is our priority here. We try to give variety where we can. We have Locals nights, Parma nights where we offer 12 unique parmas, and then our usual lunch and dinner menus which are led by seasonal produce.”
“It’s a good little place with a lot of flexibility. We had this big space as the car park where we have now turned into an open beer garden with a fully functional food truck- which we call ‘The Pub Truck’, serving different cuisines every weekend. We are hoping it gains popularity where we can continue to keep it open throughout the week for the locals and tourists who come this side,” said Carl, with passionate eyes and a warm smile.
A Warm Welcome to All: Victoria Hotel’s Philosophy
Emily Blade sums up the hotel’s ethos with a simple yet profound philosophy: “People walk into the door and need to feel like they are getting a virtual hug.” The Victoria Hotel isn’t just a place to dine; it’s a treasure trove for the kids who eagerly seek out Jeffrey, the nocturnal catfish, and Thorburn the Wombat, named in homage to the pub’s founding figure, Mr. Thorburn. The pub’s unique charm extends to its ceiling walls adorned with artwork narrating the quirky history of its founders. Surprisingly detailed for a regional pub, the branding and design permeate every nook, even making restroom visits an unexpectedly delightful experience. The Victoria Hotel in Woodend isn’t just a venue; it’s a narrative woven into the very fabric of the community, promising an immersive an enchanting journey for all who step through its doors.