In this series, we take a closer look at some of Gold Coast’s favourite heritage-listed properties.
Last year, on the evening the Wallaby Hotel closed its doors for renovations, venue manager Mark Westaway sat on the steps outside and felt…overwhelmed. He loves this iconic 148-year-old pub. He loves the history held within the walls but knew it was time for a new era. Would it pass the ‘pub test’?
Social media community pages were a-chatter about the changes. As a seasoned publican, Mark could take on board the harshest of concerns. He understood that this is no ordinary building.
Established in 1883 as The Mudgeeraba Hotel, the Wallaby Hotel is listed on the Local Heritage Register. Its status based on its social and historical importance as a “meeting place and watering hole for locals and visitors to the area”.
Mark had an innate sense that embracing the history of this site made good business sense. Local council provided advice and resources to ensure authenticity. With solid industry experience, Mark knew the Wallaby needed to modernise while retaining traditional elements from by-gone eras. As a result, the redesign does not impose a new character but offers enhancement of a traditional Aussie pub.
”It’s the ‘Reverse Mullet’. Party at front, business out back,” Mark muses as we chat on the breezy, family-oriented back deck.
I don’t mind a mullet. I want to know more and Mark kindly obliges by showing me through the building. It doesn’t take long to notice that each area is the result of careful consideration of his patrons.
A new entry ramp leads to an impressive artefact from the original building – ice boxes. On the back outdoor deck are long rows of tables, ambient lighting and a new playground. Kids themselves were involved in the design process of the fun yet secure outdoor environment.
Stepping inside, the new bar circles to service the adjoining main areas of the building. Skirted with panels of local recycled timber, the bar also features the original upcycled timber counter. It’s a great spot to pull up a stool and enjoy any of the 17 beer varieties on tap.
Walls feature a customised mosaic of historic Gold Coast newspaper articles. Décor features ‘hero pieces’ which scream “old-school pub”. An art deco stained glass lighting fixture overhangs the traditional wooden pool table. Already I can see that this renovation was a labour of love – a passion project.
The building boasts a new stage with lighting and sound equipment. Performing artists are often burdened lugging around and setting up heavy loads. Mark explains that the Wallaby has always been an Aussie live music pub and are proud supporters of local and touring talent.
The bistro is the final test. The renovations made the ceiling the star with the timber braces stripped back to bare wood. Booths line the wall and stunning timber tables fill the floor.
OK, what about the menu? Any self respecting pub serves a decent parmy, burger and fish n chips. Chef Jade Connors popped over to chat. (I can’t help but note that he sports one of the most incredible mullets you will ever see.) Backed by a family team who share his passion, Jade loves the technicality and creativity of cooking.
“We do simple pub food but we do it THE best”, says Mark. A staple pub menu offers all the classics. That’s not enough to satisfy the creative spark for Jade. He offers an additional seasonal menu with mouth-watering delights like seafood laksa and paella.
Did the Wallaby Hotel renovation pass the heritage ‘pub test’? Did it embrace and enhance the cultural heritage of the building as a watering hole?
If any indication, the Wallaby are finalists in the QLD Hotel Association (QHA) 2021 awards including Best Entertainment Venue, Best Redeveloped Hotel and Best Bistro (Metropolitan). Winners announced 7 June.
Kings of Aussie pub rock, The Screaming Jets, also seem to approve, kicking off their 30 year anniversary tour at the Wallaby Thursday 8 July 2021 at 8pm.
The Wallaby Hotel is situated at 43 Railway St Mudgeeraba. For more visit wallabyhotel.com.au.