Since it first opened in 1864, both the Park Hotel and its home suburb of Abbotsford have gone through many incarnations. When the pub first welcomed drinker through its doors and started pouring beer, it was at the height of Victoria’s gold rush, a period that saw Abbotsford rapidly transition from farmland to the heartland of Melbourne’s industry.
The new jobs created at the time brought with them new homes and new homes in turn created a need for places in which to drink once tools were downed. It was a time when an untold number of pubs dotted the corners of Melbourne’s inner north and, though the area is still known for the ones that have survived, many more have gone.
Yet The Park has managed to stand the test of time and has steadfastly remained a local for more than a century and a half. In its current incarnation, the corner pub is under the stewardship of Edward Harley, Nick Sawle and Sam Howard, the team that took over the Royston back in 2016, where Edward had previously worked as the long-time manager when it was one of the very first pubs in Melbourne to get behind craft beer.
After closing for a few months for renovation, the new owners reopened The Park midway through 2018 and the place soon roared back into life.
Much of what had ensured the pub’s longevity with locals has remained: the cosy front bar retains that ability to draw in regulars and there’s still ample opportunity to watch your sport of choice each weekend, while the fireplaces dotted throughout also light the way from front bar to dining room to beer garden (more on that haven later).
But the new owners also gave the place a minor facelift and a fresh lick of paint to help entice many of Abbotsford’s newer residents into the old building. Considering the pedigree of the Royston’s beer list, one of the major changes was the pub’s strong focus on good beer. Here, a dozen taps pour a rotating line-up of crafty offerings and, while particular attention is given to Victorian breweries, plenty of beer from other states passes over the bar too.
The menu mixes pub classics like steaks, parmas and burgers with the slightly more unusual: fried okra, Biryanchi (spiced lamb rice balls) and the Royston’s legendary cheeseburger spring rolls also make an appearance. Wednesday steak night is a big draw for locals and its popularity helped attract droves of new regulars in as soon as it began.
But, if good beer and good food isn’t enough to spark your curiosity, perhaps The Park’s greatest asset comes in the shape of its beer garden. The expansive and sun-drenched space may be largely hidden from the street but it’s close to the same size as the indoors.
With its own bar featuring another six taps plus a pool table, it’s the kind of beer garden that, on warm afternoons, not only brings in a crowd but also creates the sort of animated atmosphere that makes even a first time visitor feel like they’re returning home.
And it’s with those kinds of foundations in place you can’t help but feel The Park is well set for another 150 years to come.