By Narelle Coulter
CHAMPAGNE corks popped and beer flowed on Monday night as the Casey Cardinia region celebrated big wins at the Australian Hotels Association state awards for excellence.
Beaconsfield’s Cardinia Park Hotel won the regional hotel of the year title and Zagame’s Berwick took out the title of metropolitan hotel of the year.
Zagame’s Berwick also won the award for best metropolitan sports bar and the Cardinia Park Hotel won best regional bistro.
Another local winner was Kelly’s Motor Club Hotel Cranbourne which was recognised for outstanding achievement in training.
Frank Deegan, owner of the Cardinia Park Hotel, said he was still in shock when he spoke to Star News on Tuesday.
“I was really quite shocked. I didn’t expect to win, not at all. When I looked at the other finalists in our category there were some really good hotels, I was just staggered.“
Mr Deegan attributed the win to “customer service and attention to detail” thanking staff and patrons.
“Cardinia Park Hotel is a pretty place, it’s a boutique-y kind of pub if you like. Our customers are sensational. They have really embraced the hotel since the renovation.“
Mr Deegan purchased the hotel five years ago and instigated major renovations to the 1870s hotel 18 months ago.
“We are really focused on food. We also won best bistro which is a real credit to the chefs and front of house people.
“I really thank our customers for making this happen. They have supported us in a way I did not think was possible when we started out.“
Mr Deegan said his staff, including three sons who also work in the business, celebrated long and hard on Monday night.
“I had a liquor accord meeting at 10am (Tuesday) with the police, but my sons made up for me when it came to celebrating.“
Mr Deegan’s son Francis runs Cardinia Park, another son Patrick is in charge at the Central Hotel and third son Fred is the group’s accountant.
In their comments the judges praised Cardinia Parks “lovely decor, stylish bistro room with multiple rooms and fireplaces”.
“We thought the venue had a great ambience throughout and was also nice and warm,” the judges wrote.
“This is a lovely bistro room with charming ambience. It was very well patronised on a Thursday afternoon. The food was very nice and well-presented. The staff were well-trained and extremely pleasant.“
At Zagames the sports bar particularly impressed the judges.
“The range of screens in this sports bar was amazing,” the judges wrote.
“Some really big screens and we thought the range of seating options was excellent. The staff were working hard to keep patrons being served quickly. There was also a staff member walking around trying to keep the room tidy, which was a big job as there were many patrons in attendance.
“The venue is very well-presented inside and out. It is a very large dining room, but is fitted out to still feel cosy and comfortable, and also not too noisy, even with so many people there.”
The AHA State Awards for Excellence program was established in the late 1980s to recognise hotels and pubs in Victoria that demonstrate excellence across a range of categories.