After testing the boundaries of Melbourne's drinking and dining scene at Richmond's ground breaking Public House, Paul Olynyk and Julian Gerner wanted to take things to the next level. When the opportunity came up a short time later at the site of the defunct Gate Vietnamese restaurant/bar, it was too good to refuse, and the two again paired with architects 6 Degrees to create another truly remarkable space - the Royal Saxon.
Opening in November 2009, the venue design kept only the heritage façade, with a new building rising up from within it, ringed by a stylishly overgrown garden courtyard and creating multi use indoor-outdoor spaces. The offer was equally ambitious, with some of Melbourne’s best Italian food, a global wine approach from small batch producers around the world, great cocktails, and craft beers: the lot!
After three years and many glasses of pinot grigio later, Melbourne has voted with its feet and made the Royal Saxon one of Melbourne’s most popular eating and drinking destinations. The venue has won many awards including the 2010 Australian Institute of Architects commercial architecture award and multiple Restaurant & Catering Association awards, including most recently the 2012 award for ‘best restaurant in a pub/club or tavern’.
The impeccable design is the first thing you notice upon entering this charismatic pub. A sense of openness prevails both indoors and out, a welcome aspect that many bars and restaurants compromise on in this day and age. Downstairs, the courtyard shaded by the knotted 90yr old Jackson Bay Fig tree is the perfect place to enjoy lunch in the sun. A clever combination of architectural and ambient lighting inside sets the tone for dinner and drinks with friends. The upstairs space is also maximised, with a central bar leading to a gorgeous balcony that offers stunning city skyline views. Perfect for functions of all sizes, the upstairs space can be booked for events catering from 50-200 people.
To match the tasteful design, Head Chef Glenn Laurie serves a delicious, simple, rustic Italian menu. Broken down into Antipasti, Soup & Salad, Sides, Pasta & Risotto, Main Plate and Pizza, there are menu options to suit all appetites and tastes. Both the antipasti and pizza menu are perfect for sharing (or to enjoy on your own!) with selections ranging from Mozzarella di bufala, new season broad bean bruschetta, roasted witlof & taggiasca olives, to the mouth-watering roast pork pizza, with spinach, garlic, Ligurian olives and rosemary. Highlights from the bigger plates include the exceptional grilled grass-fed porterhouse with slow cooked new season peas and salsa d’erbe, and the magnificent linguine di mare – Crystal Bay prawns, calamari, white fish, parsley, saffron, peas and vermentino.
The love for exceptional seasonal produce is evident here, an observation backed up by Glenn, who remarks, “Seasonality is so important to us, so we use mostly Victorian produce sourced from a small group of passionate producers and growers, many of who I’ve met at our local farmers markets. Our list of producers include Glenora Heritage Produce, Yarra Valley Gourmet Greenhouse, Faranda Farms in Werribee, Isola Farm in South Gippsland and Gamekeepers Meats.”
Equally as pleasing as the food offering is the selection of beverages available at the Royal Saxon. There are numerous wines available by the glass, as well as a house wine ‘bianco’ and house wine ‘rosso’, sourced from the King Valley, available in 1/2 litre and litre carafes. Wines are sourced from as nearby as Macedon and the Mornington Peninsula, and from as far as Tuscany and the Loire Valley. The beer list is equally extensive, with a vast and eclectic range of imported and local beer served. Cocktails are not neglected, with both the classics and fresh modern blends mixed by expert and passionate mixologists.
The Royal Saxon is a supremely versatile venue, a crowd pleaser that suits keen diners and drinkers alike. With great service, fantastic food, delicious drinks and a lively energy, it’s a pub enjoyed by all those who venture its way.