The Abermain hotel affectionately known as Griffo's, has changed hands and undergone an internal face-lift breathing new life into the 115 year-old beauty...
If you're not a local and have ever driven through Abermain then you may be thinking, hotel? What hotel?
Fair enough. You do have to turn off the main road, go under the bridge, and look a little harder to find this gem, but once you do, you won't forget it.
Built in 1905, the hotel has the historic appeal of many local Hunter pubs and could sure tell a story or two.
But the hard work of new owner Jade Smith and his family has also given the grand old pub a modern twist.
"We took over in September last year and basically started work right away. We closed up and ripped out all the carpet to restore the original timber and repainted with a soft grey and white colour scheme. We also refurbished the beer garden out the back."
New owner Jade Smith and some of the local patrons
Built in 1905, the hotel has the historic appeal of many Hunter pubs and could sure tell a story or two. But the hard work of new owner Jade Smith and his family has also given the grand old pub a modern twist...
Working alongside his brother Rob and father Wayne, Jade was determined to see the hotel flourish and once initial works were complete, the hotel re-opened for business while he planned the next stage of renovations.
"Next came our food offering. We looked for the right chef for a long time before we found Guy, a local from Aberdare who did part of his apprenticeship at Harrigan's and who also worked in other Hunter Valley pubs around the area."
"His food tastes great with lots of flavour and while it is traditional pub food, it's good pub food. Everyone loves the steaks and the schnitzels, but for me I think the calamari is something special."
"We looked for the right chef for a long time before we found Guy, a local from Aberdare who did part of his apprenticeship at Harrigan's and who also worked in other Hunter Valley pubs around the area..."
As part of the hotel upgrade, Jade and his family also re-purposed the hotel's old dining room into a slick, modern pool room and turned their eye to repairs, such as a leak in the original pressed metal ceiling, and other jobs that needed doing.
"Like many Hunter pubs, this is a really beautiful old building with intricate features and loads of character," Jade says.
"Most of the pubs around this area are so charming, but we knew this was the right one for us."
Former Sydney-siders, Jade and his father are currently living onsite at the hotel while they renovate the upstairs area with a view to creating affordable accommodation for tourists and Hunter Valley concert-goers.
"There's 10 great rooms up there and my plan is to turn the pub into a destination venue for people going to concerts in the wineries, or who are travelling and may not want to spend hundreds of dollars on accommodation. What we want is a strong focus on accommodation and food," he says.
The hotel has an expansive beer garden with live music every second Sunday
"We have plans for out there as well to create cabana style seating areas for people to relax and there's a big focus on bringing families out for the day, especially on Sunday afternoons..."
Perhaps the most surprising feature of the hotel is the outdoor area with its expansive lawn and undercover area, embraced by the iconic Hunter Valley grape vine.
"We have live music out in the beer garden every second Sunday and people really enjoy that," Jade says.
"We have plans to create cabana-style seating areas for people to relax and there's a big focus on bringing families out for the day, especially on Sunday afternoons."
While Jade's hands, along with those of his brother, father and sister Raquel who is responsible for accounts and interior design, are certainly full with the renovation, he has not counted out the addition of more pubs to the family's stable of businesses.
"We own backpacker accommodation in Sydney and North Queensland and also have a pool table business," he says.
"We've all worked in pubs and hotels and have a strong focus on accommodation and hospitality. I'm always on the lookout for other pubs, but it has to be the right one for us."
The hotel has many iconic features, including name plates that pay homage to loyal locals who have passed away