The fundamentals of a good pub experience – crisp cold beer, served off a meticulously maintained system into a clean glass; a wine range that’s interesting and not intimidating; food that’s hot, looks good and tastes great; a team who works fast and smile at the same time, welcoming you to the venue like they would their home.
That’s the mantra scrawled on one of the walls inside Port Melbourne’s Prince Alfred and the commitment offered by Tom and Anna Streater to all who walk through the pub’s doors.
There’s more to that mantra too: they view the Prince Alfred as the Larry Bird of pubs. The basketball great might not be spoken of in the same breath as the likes of Michael Jordan or LeBron James but what he believed in was mastering the fundamentals. Getting the simple things done exactly right made him a 12 time All-Star, three time NBA MVP and member of the legendary USA “Dream Team” at the 1992 Olympics.
The point being, for Tom and Anna, the key at any pub worth its salt is getting the basics done right, to master the fundamentals. It’s fortunate then that when they took over the Prince Alfred late in 2016, the 150-year-old pub had such sturdy literal and figurative foundations upon which they could build. Even if a little deconstruction was required first.
It meant dealing with the existing carpets, for example; when they went to work cleaning up one particularly well-worn area, they discovered the carpet was actually patterned – it had just been obscured by years of built up gunk…
And, as well as replacing some old carpet, they set about reworking how the space looked and felt, and ensuring the bar’s 12-tap system was cleaner and ran smoother than it ever had, ready to pour a far broader range of beer too. Today, most of the dozen rotate through the most popular craft beer styles, so expect to find everything from IPAs to something sour, the odd hazy and some fresh collabs.
But introducing better beer and fixing the place up didn’t mean the couple’s plan was to take away the Port Melbourne local’s essence: that of a neighbourhood watering hole. It means the Prince Alfred remains a spot for the people of Port Melbourne to come together, one where you can just as easily sneak in for a knock-off drink or bring your family for a long lunch. Maybe you’re there to try the latest beer to hit the taps but you could just as easily be there for a footy final, with the beer in your hand of secondary importance.
Breathing new life into the pub also meant creating a menu that was focused on pub fare and burgers but which offered no shortage of vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options. The rest of the drinks list is dedicated to wines and spirits that – as per the mantra – are interesting and not intimidating. Certainly, it’s a step or two up from the offering before they moved in, when there was one red wine, complete with its own red wine glass. Just the one, mind you…
Over time, Tom and Anna have worked their way through the rest of the building too. There’s a rooftop beer garden to tempt you out of your house on a sunny afternoon and multiple small nooks upstairs that resemble comfy share house lounge rooms (albeit, with a better selection of drinks). They’re all features that add to the feeling of the pub being a welcome extension of your home.
If the sun isn’t shining, there’s the classic lineup of weekly specials such as meal deals, Tuesday trivia, live music on weekends, throwback DJ parties and Saturday afternoon barbecues to lure you in.
That said, they’re just the details. The main reason you’ll likely keep coming back is the same reason people have frequented places like this for centuries: to drink a beer, catch up with mates, have a good time, relax. It is, after all, just a pub. The Larry Bird pub.