If you don’t have memories of going out to Eureka before 10pm to get in free, using one of those random Facebook friend’s list to get in for cheapies, or attending a foam or a scribble party on a thirsty Thursday, then you are not a true Geelongian. That was then though… Now it’s time for you Eureka-goers to make some new memories.
Located in the newly renovated Eureka building, Westend is Geelong’s newest eatery, with the modern interpretation of a great pub, dining room and a bar, now boasting a refreshed, pretty schmick and lively space.
We sit down with the man behind it all – Geelong publican Cam O’Keefe – who’s also behind the successful re-invigoration of the Central Hotel, now known as Centra.
Hi Cam, thanks for talking to Forte, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
Well, I grew up in Geelong, attending both school and university here. I moved away for about 10 or so years, working in hospitality in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and even London. Coming back to Geelong was so different, in terms of the new wants and needs surrounding hospitality, with the expectations for quality higher than before.
What made you decide to revamp Eureka Hotel and turn it into a restaurant/bar?
I opened Centra over four years ago and have had such a loyal following, so when the owner of the Eureka building approached me to join the Little Malop Street precinct, I was flattered! It’s been a journey over the last couple of years, with the owner having a quite selective process as to who can open up in the area so we have just been making sure we make the cut. There has been a drive for a shift in the social demographic of Geelong, with many Melbournians moving down here with higher expectations for restaurants and bars and a demand for more, so we’re just making sure we fit in.
What kind of vibe are you going for with the venue space?
Westend is halfway between a pub and a restaurant. It’s got the relaxing vibe of a pub, but quality food like a restaurant, followed by a menu that is accessibly priced between the two. Weekdays will be marketed towards the food, and the weekends and nights are when the bar comes alive, combining a mixture of food, and energy of a bar.
Where did you get the inspiration for the interior design?
I had the help of Melbourne interior architect, Tarryn Joyce, who has done many hospitality fit-outs, especially for George Calombaris. We initially looked at the design of Centra, and then looked at older venues in Melbourne that had been modernised. We wanted to keep the historical elements of the 1850s Eureka Hotel, but also add modern and fresh elements to make sure the original elements (such as the 100-year-old hand-made bricks on the exterior) continue to stand proud but work them into my own spin.
Can you give us a low down on the food and drink menu?
The food is halfway between a pub meal and restaurant-quality, ensuring to be accessibly priced. A large part of our menu focuses on the grill, with steak being a key component. The bar area features dishes that are perfect for sharing, which also occurs in the dining room menu. We source fantastic meats from local and interstate suppliers, taking into account the quality and taste of the meat.
Our drinks, on the other hand, feature a large locally-sourced range to appeal to the niche but also feature a range of other beverages to appeal to the broader market of Geelong clientele. Our wine list is quite accessible, offering drinks both by the bottle and the glass.
What do you recommend off the menu?
You can’t go past our Dry Aged T-Bone Steak, which is dried out by a butcher, and our own take on a Long Island Iced Tea – the Bay City Iced Tea.
Why do you think Westend will be a great addition to Little Malop Street?
A lot of the other traders in the precinct are so successful, but they are quite small venues. Westend will be a great edition because it is so much larger, people can use us as a meeting point while they’re waiting for a table elsewhere, or just as a place to meet for after-work drinks.
Can you tell us a little bit about Shorts Place Social?
The plan is for upstairs and downstairs to be separate in terms of identity and marketing. Downstairs is designed more for food and beverages, whereas upstairs is more about a large-scale function space (to fit 50-250 people). The aim is to open up from midnight-onwards on Friday and Saturday nights as a supper club – which is a bar that stays open late and offers substantial food and drinks, in a more relaxed and comfortable environment. Shorts Place Social will be an alternative to the nightclubs, to attract a bigger, more mature clientele who just want to go out late for some good food and nice drinks.
What are your upcoming plans for the space?
After we add in our outdoor seating, it’s just about the finishing touches on the space, nothing major. However, our upstairs space will be opening at the start of November.
Do you have a favourite memory from your old Eureka days? If yes, do tell.
I have so many memories, a lot of them that shouldn’t go to print! Many of my memories come back to Eureka being the place to go when I was at uni; no matter if it was a celebration or just a night out, just to spend long hours of the night here. I don’t even want to think about how much of my weekly savings went into this place. Back in the day, Eureka was the super club of Geelong, I’ve heard stories of the liquor licence accommodating up to 900 people, but waving it off and having 2000 people in the venue. The venue has gone through so many forms of hospitality offerings through generations, everyone will have a different memory, whether they want to remember it or not.
Westend Geelong is located at 96 Little Malop Street, Geelong. Visit westendgeelong.com.au and phone 5280 8444 to book your table.