Sanctuary style and community spirit - the heart behind Tea Gardens Hotel

FEATURE STORY


A little over a year ago, Sydneysiders Ben Hanson and his wife Emily purchased the Tea Gardens Hotel.


For Ben, a former cameraman working out of Sydney, London and later on hit TV show The Bachelor, making the move from Sydney to take on an iconic venue like the Tea Gardens Hotel has proven life changing for he and his family.


"It's been just over a year and we've already made some big changes to both our lives and the hotel," Ben begins.

"When we came here our number one aim was to create a family-friendly pub that was run by a family - being myself, my wife and our two-year-old son Flynn.

"We've started by trying to make our beer garden more appealing, our food is very important, and we put in our own veggie garden."


While a nice beer garden, enjoyable food and a cute veggie garden might sound well and good, it is a description far too modest for what is actually taking place at the hotel.



While a nice beer garden, enjoyable food and a cute veggie garden might sound well and good, it is a description far too modest for what is actually taking place at the hotel.


Inspired by Sydney's Grounds of Alexandria, Ben and Emily are together creating a welcoming, sanctuary-style space that brings people together through a shared love of local food, rich coffee, urban gardens and community spirit.


In less than a year, Ben and Emily have already remodeled part of the hotel to create a cafe, complete with Sydney-standard coffee, weekend breakfasts overlooking the river, and the kind of decorative charm that would please any eclectic minded hipster - or admirer of local history.



Ben and Emily are together creating a welcoming, sanctuary-style space that brings people together through a shared love of local food, rich coffee, urban gardens and community spirit.


"We wanted to create a room with a warm feeling, great coffee, and breakfasts for our overnight guests, tourists and locals alike," he explains.

"Many of the pieces one the wall relate to the area and were provided by locals, including the old harpoons and fishing equipment."


Outside, the veggie garden provides homegrown herbs such as basil and mint used for mojitos, toppings for pizzas baked in an exquisite pizza oven imported from Italy, and thyme for various breakfast dishes.


The hotel's current menu includes a variety of delicious dishes, including a house-smoked brisket burger and smoked salmon salad. But it is the Argentinian fire-pit barbecue that really attracts attention.


Held every month or so, the Argentinian barbecue consists of fire-pit roasted meat, char-grilled corn and authentic south american salads.


"Food is a big focus for us and one of our plans is to become a destination for people to come and enjoy food that is made by our local chef using many ingredients we have grown ourselves," Ben says.



"Food is a big focus for us and one of our plans is to become a destination for people to come and enjoy food that is made by our local chef using many ingredients we have grown ourselves..."


"We also have an atrium area out the back that I feel could become a greenhouse style area.

"Coming from Sydney and having been to The Grounds of Alexandria, I love the pots, the plants, and the whole feel of going back to nature, and I believe our atrium can become that.

"So we are slowly working toward creating that kind of atmosphere to be enjoyed by kids, parents and grandparents."


Entertainment wise, the hotel already features local live music every Saturday night, but Ben says he is also looking forward to occasionally booking touring bands like Spy V Spy and other Australian pub rock acts.

Kids are also catered for with discos held every third Friday of the month.


Although life for Ben and Emily has changed dramatically since buying the hotel, the couple say they will continue to wear their hearts on their sleeve when it comes to creating a place for everyone to enjoy.


"When we came up here and saw the hotel for the first time, we just fell in love with it," he says.

"We saw it had good bones and just needed some love, which we had to give.

"We treat it like it's our own home and work under the motto that if people come to our house we want them to have a great time, to leave feeling special.

"We want people to have that same feeling when they come to the Tea Gardens Hotel, because it really is a very special place."

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Nikki Taylor is Australian Hotels Association, Newcastle Hotels Representative

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Australian Hotels Association 2018