Metro Lights and Country Nights: Crowning the Overall Hotels of The Year

The top honours at the 2024 AHA (Vic) State Awards for Excellence were announced in front of 1200 attendees in May this year, with the highly anticipated ‘Overall Hotel of the Year – Metropolitan’ and ‘Regional’ awards presented by Carlton & United Breweries.

Among the 11 contenders for 2024 were esteemed names like The Botanical Hotel (South Yarra), The Continental Sorrento, and The Fifth Province (St Kilda). Ultimately, it was The Notting Hill Hotel, fondly known as “The Nott” by its patrons, that took home the coveted title in the Metropolitan division, along with The Middle Hotel Korumburra emerging as the winner of the regional award among 13 finalists.

So, What Makes a Hotel the Overall Hotel of the Year?

The Middle Hotel in Korumburra was a standout, being finalists in 11 categories and achieving a perfect 100% score in both ‘Parma of The Year’ and ‘Best Outdoor Experience – Regional.’ The robust judging process, which underpins the Awards program, involves anonymous venue visits, reviews, and analysis of written submissions or individual interviews.

Judges highlighted the extensive menu at The Middle Hotel, featuring locally sourced ingredients. The menu, divided into starters, burgers, mains, and salads, has been described as ‘clear’ and ‘well priced,’ with dietary notations where applicable. Specials are offered with an option to add items to meals, providing further variety and flexibility to the customers. According to the observations made by judges, the hotel caters well to seniors as well as children, with dedicated menu sections for both age groups and a variety of options for each.

The Middle Hotel Korumburra

“The Middle Hotel boasts rustic charm, with decor evoking a country aesthetic while incorporating modern elements. The dining room offered varied furniture types to suit all tastes. Cleanliness was a priority, with all unoccupied tables set and ready for new customers. Safety measures were in place, with clearly marked fire exits and displayed licensing regulations,” said some of the comments made by judges.

Staff at The Middle Hotel have been praised for their friendliness, knowledge, and passion for providing a good experience. Ben Fisher, co-owner of the venues proudly dedicated the win to staff members, who he described as ‘engaging and informative about local events, and known to take pride in their hotel, and the community that surrounds it.’

The Notting Hill Hotel win Overall Hotel of The Year Metropolitan

The Metropolitan counterpart, The Notting Hill Hotel, was also a shining star. Finalists in six categories, The Nott took home awards for ‘Best Outdoor Experience – Metropolitan’ and ‘Best Retail Liquor Outlet.’ Along with ‘Overall Hotel of The Year.’ Judges noted the diverse range of beers available on tap, with a strong emphasis on craft beer styles while still serving popular brands like Heineken. The venue was praised for its accessibility, with staff knowledgeable about wheelchair access and patron assistance.

A distinctive feature of The Notting Hill Hotel was its outdoor stage, enhancing the ambiance with live music. The beer garden, while providing ample shade, lacked cooling devices during warm weather. The hotel was also a finalist for ‘Best Pub Restaurant – Metropolitan.’ Their website, the first point of contact for many new customers, was described as attractive, enticing, and easy to navigate. It provides specific information on the tap house, steakhouse, beer garden, functions, and events. Their social media pages are also regularly updated, informing followers of events and promotions happening at the venue.

The Summer Eton Mess at Notting Hill Hotel

A special mention was given to their porterhouse steak, known for its perfect cooking and enticing aroma. The steak, served with crispy brown wedge chips and a refreshing cucumber and salad plate, was a highlight of the menu.

From the rustic charm and community spirit of The Middle Hotel in Korumburra to the vibrant, craft beer-centric ambiance of The Notting Hill Hotel, the evening aims to highlight the best of Victorian hospitality. As the industry looks forward to another year, the stories and successes of these winners will inspire others to strive for excellence. The AHA (Vic) State Awards for Excellence has once again underscored the vibrant and dynamic nature of the hospitality sector, promising even greater achievements in the future. The event concluded with a sense of pride and anticipation, leaving attendees eager for what the next year will bring.

Note: As per our commitment, AHA (Vic) will be conducting a regular review of the judging criteria for the State Awards for Excellence.