The Port vibe is…
“laidback, with a good grittiness about it”
Breaking the stereotypes
Tony has only owned the State Heritage-listed Railway Hotel for a brief moment in its long history. But even so, he looks at right at home and remarkably chilled for someone now running two pubs.
Although he’s gradually added more railway memorabilia – photographs, signs, lanterns and posters – to the walls, not much else has changed or will change with the pub. It has that unself-conscious coolness that comes with being anchored in another era.
“So many pubs now are… like a cross between casinos and discos. I like the real pub feel about it,” says Tony.
His main task was to bring in South Australian wines and beers – craft beers, as well as Coopers – and to use a condensed version of his city pub’s popular menu.
The removal of a couple of mass-market beers from his taps had people up in arms for a nanosecond, but everyone’s made the switch. As Tony says, “It’s about testing their boundaries… People have this idea of Port Adelaide – ‘that’s what it is down here’ – so I’m breaking those stereotypes a bit.”
While there’s plenty of down-to-earth, classic Aussie charm among local patrons, it’s very different from the days when the notoriously tough Painters and Dockers Union used the Railway Hotel as their postal address. Ask Tony about his target market today and he’s laid-back.
“Pubs should be for everyone… I don’t really have a target demographic. I let the demographic find me.”
Built to cater for passengers journeying from the city and alighting at the final stop on the line, the hotel was directly opposite the old railway station. After a major flood in 1865, when high tides and strong winds caused the river to gush over the levee bank, the level of the land adjacent to the river was raised by five to six feet.
As a consequence, what was once the street level of the old pub is now its basement. From outside you can see the partially exposed doorways; while down below, the maze includes the old horse stables and front bar.
This is history, while upstairs the pub is gently being guided into the 21st century.