The Great Britain Hotel was a rock’n’roll pub, dark and grungy and with music at its heart – a bit like The Tote in Collingwood or Old Bar in Fitzroy. With its worn pool table and sticky floors, it was a reliable and music-minded watering hole for Richmond locals. But it is no more.
The old corner pub has transformed into slick new spot Harlow. At the hands of new owners Australian Venue Co (also responsible for St Kilda’s Newmarket Hotel, and city bars State of Grace and Trinket) and architecture studio Newline Design, walls have been bashed out, the beer garden has been revamped, and overall the grunge has been tamed.
Beyond a few winks to its former life – the graffiti mural leading off the main bar remains – Harlow’s design is clean, light and fresh. The front bar's bluestone is gone, but white wall tiling, exposed brick, and stained wooden tables now create a more open space with a conscious flow towards the beer garden, which has bleacher-style terraced seating and room for a whopping 250.
The bottom of the garden leads into the snug basement bar. It's a quiet, late-night cocktail area that feels compact in the way that so many old pubs do (when many small rooms were preferred to the current open-plan trend). A large neon apricot hangs from one wall, a “gin + tonic” sign on another. DJs will play on weekends.
The menu is by head chef Leigh Colville and executive chef Telina Menzies (State of Grace). “It's conversation food – food designed to drink with. Most of it's to eat with your hands, to share and get a bit messy,” says Menzies.
Dishes are broken down into rock‘n’roll-inspired categories: The Opener, The Headliner, Support Acts and After Party. Start with Shark Bay crab doughnuts with crème fraiche; cheeseburger empanadas with pickles; beef-brisket tacos or duck sausage rolls. Mains include a classic cheeseburger with crinkle-cut chips; chicken katsu sandwiched between slices of soft white bread, slathered with nori butter and HP sauce; and a meatball melt loaded with smoked mozzarella, with chips on the side. You can also pre-order an esky of beer and a spot at the barbeque outside, where a chef will cook for you.
Speaking of drinks, wines (somewhat questionably) all fall under the header “Goon”. It’s a decent little list, though, of mostly light easy-drinkers, with heavier drops in the minority. Crunchy pinot grigio and juicy grenache come from producers including Victoria’s Mister Fox and McLaren Vale’s Alpha Box & Dice. On the taps you’ll find Furphy and Brooklyn Lager, and there’s a smattering of local tins in the fridge (Kaiju, Stomping Ground). Musically-themed cocktails are fruity and fresh. The Gin ‘n’ Juice is Four Pillars gin with elderflower and cranberry, and the Feel Good Hit of the Summer gets really boozy with vodka, gin, white tequila, triple sec and grapefruit.
If you go into Harlow expecting the GB, you’ll come out disappointed. But Harlow is its own beast, and the grunge has been polished to a pretty decent shine.
447 Church Street, Richmond
(03) 9810 0082
Mon to Thu 12pm–1am
Fri & Sat 12pm–3am