Following a devastating fire in January, the Port Office Hotel has risen like a phoenix: the historic, Heritage-listed pub has reopened its doors, beautifully restored, and is back to serving up cold beers at the Front Bar and delicious dishes in the Port Office Dining Room.
Port Office Hotel owners Nick and Meagan Gregorski are passionate about preserving and revitalising Heritage-listed venues, re-opening The Alliance Hotel in Spring Hill in 2012 and collecting a string of awards. When the Gregorskis bought and refurbished the Port Office Hotel in 2017, turning it into an award-winning gastropub, they couldn’t have anticipated that they would have to start all over again just two years later. Initially believed to be a small kitchen fire in the Dining Room restaurant, the fire snaked through the ceiling and took hold of the building, necessitating the seven-month closure and rebuild that has recently been completed.
Meagan pays tribute to a group of regulars she calls The Front Bar Army. “When news of the fire spread, this incredible group of local regulars materialised, ready to do whatever was needed. While they couldn’t help with the rebuild, they certainly maintained their loyalty, even when we only had two beers on tap and three lunch dishes on the menu created from a tiny kitchenette upstairs. They kept coming every day. Without them, it would have been heartbreaking. We call them The Front Bar Army, and we cannot thank them enough,” she said.
We were fortunate to be invited to lunch in the Dining Room with Nick and Meagan, and to try some of the delicious dishes on the new menu from Executive Chef Graham Waddell – a modern take on Australian gastro-pub food, with subtle European and Scottish influences that reflect the chef’s heritage. I had the Risotto of Jerusalem Artichoke with Truffle and Pecorino and it was perfection – creamy but not stringy-cheesy, balanced in flavour, and with the extra crunch to break up the smooth, silky risotto. Would definitely recommend – finally, someone has created a vegetarian risotto we can get excited about! – and the opinions around the table were that all the dishes were equally delightful and delicious, with balanced flavours and textures.
In between eating with your eyes, here’s a little timeline of the Port Office Hotel’s colourful 155-year history…
1864 — the doors open under the original name Shamrock Hotel, on the corner of Edward and Margaret Streets.
1876 — the pub undergoes the first of many renovations, reconstructed as a two-storey masonry building with verandas, designed by James Cowlishaw and built by contractor Charles Midson. The pub was patronised by workers from nearby shipping, industrial and riverside businesses and political operatives!
1893 — the hotel experienced its first major flood, causing extensive damage and requiring further work.
1909 — a change of licensee to John Chillan Cutbush, who would go on to be known as a proprietor of fine liquor and Trichinopoly cigars, and who renamed it the Port Office Hotel.
1955 — another refurbishment, this time under the direction of architect Francis Leo Cullen, including the removal of all the verandas, lacework, canopies and chimneystacks, and renovation of the interior fittings.
1974 — the great Brisbane Flood, but the Port Office Hotel survived to undergo further renovations in the 1980s.
2011 — another huge flood, but locals banded together to provide protection from the rising waters with sandbags.
2017 — Nick and Meagan Gregorski purchase the Port Office Hotel, bringing with them Chef Waddell.
The Port Office Hotel was recognised for her importance in Queensland’s history and her aesthetic significance when she was listed on the Queensland Heritage Register on 21 October 1992. Her position was one of significance in association with the Port Office itself, the Naval Stores, Old Mineral House, and Smellie’s Building.
Following the refurbishment, the old-school timber long bar in the Front Bar is busy again, and the Colonial Bar covers the whole second floor, including wraparound verandahs and velvet cocktail bar, open for private bookings and functions only. The Port Office Dining Room is open for lunch and dinner, Monday to Saturday 11:30am until late.
To view the menu, read more about the Port Office, or to make a reservation, visit the Port Office Hotel website.