It’s been a fast-moving six months since Julie and Ed Peter were handed the keys to the long-vacant Uraidla Hotel, culminating in its re-opening the weekend before last.
Although built in the 1880s, the hotel had to be rebuilt after being largely destroyed by bushfire in 1939, which accounts for the various Art Deco features that have been newly revealed in the restoration process. It also accounts for a few charred timbers that have been left visible above the main bar and lounge area.
“The building was structurally sound,” Julie says. “We just had to strip of layers and layers, which I reckon made the place seem larger, at least on the inside.”
Julie, whose background is in graphic design and photography, provided the concept design for the same builders responsible for a similar transformation of the Crafers Hotel, also owned in partnership by the Peters.
The main bar features a new pressed-tin ceiling and original light fittings made from old vegetable packing cases, as well as ancient glass insulators sourced from an outback station, while an adjacent lounge has a windmill blade “chandelier” from the same station.
Like the Crafers, the emphasis is on exposed stone walls and lots of natural materials – in this case recycled matchboard panelling, and hints of the local horticulture history with pipe-fitting table bases and more packing case features. The toilets haven’t been neglected – the gents in particular is a stunner, with urinals caved from spent stainless-steel beer kegs, along with exposed copper pipes and oversize ’40s-style basins.
Fat chesterfield sofas, comfy chairs, old carpets and open fires add homely touches: “This is really a community pub,” Julie says, “and it needs to be cosy.”
Former Crafers Hotel head chef Anna Kittel is in charge of the kitchens, and while her menu is less extensive it still promises well-priced pub food that is both modern and top-quality – again given an agricultural touch with headings such as The Tilling, Early Crop and Main Crop which includes dishes such as rabbit, pancetta and ale pie. A blackboard menu will have daily specials.
While the wine list, not surprisingly, is less extensive than the stellar version at Crafers, it makes a special feature of local Basket Range winemakers – something that will be reinforced in the next stage of development which, over the next year, will see the nearby former squash courts turned into a regional cellar door, brewery, bakery and café.
Further development of the hotel will see the verandahs and balconies restored, while a glass conservatory will overlook Uraidla oval and the hotel’s yet-to-be-built vegetable gardens. No pokies, of course – that space has been turned into a function room.
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