What Is the difference between a pub and a cat? Well, the answer is obvious, is it not? A pub, of course, has more lives. The reason why this joke is so irrefutably hysterically funny is because it is very much rooted in truth. A legitimate case in point is the Port Melbourne classic The Graham Hotel, a hotel steeped in history dating back to the early 1870s. According to the Port Melbourne Historical and Preservation Society, The Graham Family Hotel was constructed on the shore of the Sandridge Lagoon next to the Graham Street footbridge in 1872. It is a substantial 2-storey, 10-room brick building in the Free Classical style which was designed by architect Frederick Williams and commissioned by stevedore Alfred J. Johnson. Upon Johnson’s death, the first licensee – a man by the name of Andrew Curran – bought the hotel and within the Curran family it remained until the late 19th century. By the 1930s, The Graham once again changed hands. The business was purchased this time by the Boyhan family, who promoted it as the Sports Corner and catered to every ilk of local sports fan. The 1950s saw this sporting tradition elevated to the next level. It was during this decade that Port Melbourne’s businesses, including pubs and factories, began forming teams that would compete against one another. The Graham Hotel sponsored its own football and cricket teams, training and playing on nearby Lagoon Oval.

Flash to the decadence of the 1980s and the establishment, now trading under the name Cassidy’s Family Hotel, was popular for – of all things – its Chinese restaurant and accompanying fish tank. During this incarnation, the hotel also contained a corner bar which catered to Saturday workers and their lunchtime beers. Over a decade later, in 1998, photographer John O’Flaherty refurbished The Graham building with the aim of transforming the “old dame” into a pub-cum-digital photography studio. Though O’Flaherty’s intention was genuine and bold, alas, it proved to be short lived. Relatively soon afterwards, the business again changed hands. Twin brothers and respected local restaurateurs Tony and Peter Giannakis bought the stronghold in 2001 and opened The Graham, a popular fine-dining restaurant which enjoyed considerable success until 2017, at which point it was sold…again. Having lain dormant in a state of limbo for a couple of years, this piece of sporting, drinking, dining and overall social history was once again prepared to assume a new identity…

..and, oh, what an identity, it is! This most recent version of The Graham Hotel combines modern Australian dining and beloved pub classics. It is “a series of spaces for every moment”, offering a variety of moods which move from refined and intimate on the inside to relaxed and lively on the outside. The Graham purports to be your home away from home, and its design aesthetic is imbued with a touch of classic Australia. The overall look is modern, but it manages to retain that warm and cosy atmosphere of yesteryear. In fact, one could describe the whole vibration as “heritage luxury”. Service extends over both levels of the venue, and an opulent dining room is featured with a stunning atrium attached. A casual front bar is available, serving both boutique and tap beer.

The Graham Hotel, Port Melbourne


The Graham Hotel, Port Melbourne


The Graham Hotel, Port Melbourne


With regards to the food menu, it is simple and straightforward, relieving diners of the often familiar – and irritating – experience of “um’ing and ah’ing”. Starters include beer-battered mussels, Wagyu beef carpaccio and a seafood tasting plate for two. The Flinders Island lamb shoulder pie – 24-hour slow-braised lamb, sweet potato puree and petit vegetables – or the Scottsdale pork chop served with celeriac remoulade and truffle butter, sorts the main selection. There is also a grill menu which features prime-cut pasture-fed beef sourced from Flinders + Co. For the sweet-tooths in attendance, the peanut butter and chocolate jar (mousse, ganache and chocolate crisp) and/or the lemon-lime-bitters curd (meringue, sable crumb and strawberry) should suffice…and then some. A bar menu is also available, as is a curated list of wines from both near and far, ensuring that a perfect complement is available for each and every occasion – an occasion that may just include the celebration of 150 years of bringing the local Port Melbourne community together. Needless to say, this is a piece of Melbourne pub history that must be experienced. The Graham is located at 97 Graham Street.

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