Have you been to Guilford yet? For those not in the know, it’s a gorgeous town close to the Swan Valley that is steeped in history with The Guildford Hotel at its heart.
The hotel has been around since 1886, but in more recent history it’s been through three iterations. First up in my memory, it was a typical ‘local pub’ with a drive-through Bottle-o, where you could play pool and get in on some karaoke, nothing special but in a great spot and in a beautiful old building. Unfortunately it burned down in 2008 and for the best part of the next decade the old building remained gutted while activists constantly fought to bring it back to life.
Luckily for us that happened earlier this year, and The Guildford is now back bigger, better, and more beautiful than ever.
About a month ago I met some friends there for lunch on a long weekend, and the place was absolutely buzzing. This did mean it was pretty much impossible to get a car park and took a little while to get a table, but it was so nice seeing a place I used to come to 10 years ago thriving and full of life.
And let me just say, the new owners have done an incredible job with the restoration! They’ve really opened the place up – in fact when I walked in I couldn’t even place what the old room used to look like. There’s lots of space, including a beautiful mezzanine level and a nice big beer garden, and it’s all been fitted out with remnants of the building’s historical past – think loads of exposed brick, gorgeous repurposed timber, brass fixtures and antique-style furniture.
Unfortunately our dining experience was less than perfect.
The drinks menu looked impressive but don’t expect to find a bottle of wine for under $40. As a result we instead opted for one of the day’s specials – a jug of Pimm’s cocktail. After about a 10 minute wait ordering it took another 15 minutes to get our drink, but when it arrived it both looked and tasted good.
Food was next up, and we placed our orders at the bar inside. The menu here looks pretty good – while there is a large focus on slow cooked American BBQ style dishes, there were still some good looking vegetarian options and a good mix of styles (although if you’re listening guys I’d LOVE you to add a veggie burger to the menu!). Most of the vegetarian dishes work best as share plates with the only main being a salad or a three cheese grilled sandwich. Not feeling either of these, I opted for the charred bread with black bean hummus and Pico de Gallo as well as a serve of fries with rosemary salt and curry mayo.
It was only when our meals finally arrived well over an hour later that they told us they’d lost our docket. Along with an apology they brought us some of the fried cheeseburger spring rolls on the house (obviously I couldn’t eat them but apparently they were really good).
So how was the food? It was pretty solid however after such a long wait we weren’t hard to please. The bread and dip I ordered was very garlicky but still very good, and was the perfect size for me to eat all by myself. The chips were great although I can’t say I was a fan of the curry mayo.
The bao and a burger were also devoured at our table and were given a thumbs up although again, it wasn’t quite what was expected – there was supposed to be two bao per serve however we were only given one per serve (the reason given was that it was bigger than the ones usually on the menu), which made it difficult to share.
The dessert menu looked incredibly tempting (hello boozy popsicles!) however by then it was getting late in the day and it looked like it was about to rain, so we decided to head off with the plan to come back another day.
The final verdict: While the service was far from perfect, I’ll give them a pass as we could see everyone was absolutely run off their feet and doing their best. The beautiful setting, great atmosphere and tempting menu is enough to convince me to go back again, and I have high hopes that it will become a local regular for me once again, particularly during the summer months.
The Guildford Hotel – 159 James Street, Guildford
Open 7 days a week, from 11am til late (midnight on Fri & Sat)