“Mildly eccentric”

In order to qualify as a genuine, bonafide Melburnian, one must be familiar with the name Alfred Felton, for Alfred Felton was a pivotal and influential figure who contributed to the economic, artistic and philanthropic evolution of this beautiful and cultured metropolis. Born in 1831 in Essex, England, Felton migrated to Victoria in 1853. From there, he developed his commercial legs, so to speak, by transporting goods and equipment to the Goldfields before establishing himself as an entrepreneur and merchant in Melbourne, where he served in the capacities of a commission agent, a general dealer and, eventually, as a wholesale druggist in Swanston Street. “Mildly eccentric” are the words used to describe Felton’s personal style, and he possessed strong interests in literature and the arts. These interests grew and matured, thereby culminating in Felton becoming one of the city’s leading art collectors. This collecting was evidenced throughout the myriad of books, paintings and objet d’art which crowded Felton’s bachelor rooms atop the St Kilda Hotel. Alfred Felton was an infinitely generous man, as well, with the overwhelming majority of his benefactions having been made both discreetly and anonymously. When Felton died in 1904, his will stipulated that a trust fund be established, half of which was given to charities supporting the relief of women and children, half of which was utilised to purchase works of art for the Melbourne National Gallery, currently the National Gallery of Victoria. To put it simply and bluntly, the city of Melbourne is incomprehensibly indebted to this single human being. Now the fun begins.

As an homage to its most famous resident, the reimagined Hotel Esplanade – formerly the St Kilda Hotel and affectionately known as The Espy – has converted its top floor, previously comprised of derelict rooms, into a truly world-class table-service cocktail bar. The bar is appropriately and deservedly called The Ghost of Alfred Felton. Prior to The Espy’s re-opening in December 2018, the fifth floor has never been open to the public, so this transformation has uncovered an additional well of historical depth which permeates an institution already sufficiently steeped in local artistic and musical history. The legend, seemingly, continues to become more legendary. The Ghost of Alfred Felton bar is divided into three rooms, each revolving around a major expression of Felton’s celebrated life. The Library contains, believe it or not, a collection of old books, as well as a beautifully worn brass-and-wood gramophone. There is a room dedicated to art, primarily painting, and is suitably adorned with a variety of framed and unframed creations, all of which – in their stillness and isolation – provide a noticeably stark contrast to the sweeping and windswept views directly down St Kilda Pier. By the way, all three rooms contain these mesmerising bayside views. Finally, The Pharmacy completes the room triad. The Pharmacy, of course, is a nod to Felton’s experience in the early days of pharmaceuticals and is tricked out with a former Gershwin Room baby piano, a bar and an assortment of aged apothecary glass bottles. It is worth noting, as well, that archived photographs were used to restore some of the original character of Felton’s living quarters. That being said, placing yourself within these three spaces is literally like being transported back in time. Time capsules, they may more precisely be called. Pretty cool, yes?

As far as food and drinks are concerned, The Ghost of Alfred Felton delivers an undeniably impressive assortment. The food menu has been curated by Executive Chef Ash Hicks, and the selections are simple, straightforward and mouth-wateringly delicious. Think Kilpatrick oysters, fried chicken with tarama and caviar, the Espy Bay Bug Roll, beef tartare with pickled pepper and potato crisps, a 300g Altair Wagyu flank with peppercorn sauce or perhaps a 400g slow-roasted lamb shoulder with grilled beans and salsa verde. Creative vegetarian options are also available – for example, sweet corn risotto with toasted almonds and red pepper. The wine list is manageable, yet powerful, and contains offerings from Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy, Germany and Argentina. For the most sophisticated of effervescence enthusiasts, vintage champagne is poised for your enjoyment, as well. The cocktail menu is a combination of both old school and new school, and an extensive whisky list provides the perfect conclusion to a truly wonderful drinking and dining experience. So, what are you waiting for? Make your way to 11 The Esplanade, St Kilda, and celebrate Mr Alfred Felton, celebrate art, celebrate music, celebrate philanthropy, celebrate Melbourne, celebrate shared dining, shared drinking and shared stories.

Alfred Felton - The Espy

Visit Alfred Felton

Alfred Felton - The Espy

Visit The Alfred Felton Bar

Alfred Felton - The Espy

Visit the Ghost of Alfred Felton

Alfred Felton - The Espy

Visit The Alfred Felton Bar
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