Cremorne’s Cherry Tree Hotel has been described as being as architecturally significant as the Dimmey’s building but with twice the splendour.
Young local orchardist, Dr Ambedkar
The hotel was built way back in 1860, in the grounds of an orchard that grew both cherries & cherry tomatoes. The orchard was a bountiful one, and facing a glut of fresh cherry tomatoes, the orchardist, a learned Indian fellow by the name of Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, developed a recipe for a novel delicacy that became known locally as ‘tomato sauce’. The popularity of this new fangled condiment quickly spread throughout the burgeoning colony of Richmond and demand quickly outstripped supply.
First ever Rosella tomato sauce bottle. So tasty it was sucked dry.
Supply was not the only thing being stripped, meanwhile, a flock of rosellas had taken residence in the orchard, devouring all the cherries on the trees. Sensing an opportunity, the good Dr Ambedkar decided to cut his losses and go all in, constructing a large manufacturing facility on the land once occupied by the barren cherry plantation. Hence, the Rosella factory was born, and subsequently went from strength to strength, producing tomato sauce that was thus exported to all four corners of the globe.
Dr Ambedkar’s famous ‘tomato sauce’ eventually made it all the way to the Papal States, where it was immensely popular, forming the bedrock of a nascent ‘Italian’ cuisine. (Chef Toby has heavily skewed the hotel’s menu towards ‘Italian’ cuisine, as a nod to Cremorne’s irrefutable influence on Italy’s culinary history). Alas, I digress….
Naturally, juicing tomatoes is thirsty work, hence the benevolent Doctor needed a facility to cater for the health and morale of his growing workforce. Thus The Cherry Tree Hotel was born, which originally featured 40 taps, all pouring one solitary brand of pale ale brewed by the good Doctor himself, a unique brew with multitudes of hops and with an impressive amount of alcohol. As Dr Ambedkar was the only man in the colony from the sub-continent, and product branding was in its infancy, his beer came to be known as ‘The Indian’s Pale Ale’. Thus IPA was born.
Forward to the 31st of July 1868, a widowed pie seller by the name of Mrs Mac was plying her trade in nearby Gosch’s paddock. Struggling to make ends meet and feed her family, the humble merchant resorted to the novel idea of adding the good Doctor’s Rosella tomato sauce to her rather dry pastries. The resultant dish, according to The Argus “Was a delicacy of unparalleled brilliance” and word quickly circulated among the colonists. By the afternoon the line of hungry Cremornians stretched for over a quarter mile. Impatient diners waiting at the back of the queue became restless and to amuse themselves began kicking an inflated pigs bladder back and forth to while away the time. Thus, Australian Rules Football was born. But, yet again, I digress….
First footy match. Note the line leading up to Mrs Mac’s pie stall.
The Cherry Tree Hotel began a period of long and sensational decline into criminality, when a Carnival was opened nearby in a location that became to be known as the ‘Cremorne Pleasure Gardens’. ‘Carnies’ being thirsty and rambunctious folk, took advantage of Dr Ambedkar’s good nature and proceeded to muscle in on the pub. After being punched in the genitals one too many times by a short-statured French gentleman known as ‘Oui-Man’, our good Doctor left these newly hostile climes to return home to the bosom of his family. Coming home virtually penniless, having abandoned his assets in Cremorne, Dr Ambedkar’s greedy family declared that he was ‘untouchable’ and shunned him. With what few pennies he had left he took the next ship to England, on to Oxford to complete his legal studies, and later author the Indian constitution, but alas, again I am digressing and this part of the tale was well recited at a nearby pub close to all our hearts.
The pub’s descent into notoriety continued many years later, when a 16 year old local by the name of Joseph Theodore Leslie ‘Squizzy’ Taylor, rather inebriated on sherry bombs, began his criminal career by jumping the bar and absconding with the princely sum of ten shillings, whilst the patrons and staff were distracted watching a cock fighting bout in the back room. Thus Cremorne’s first career criminal was born.
Squizzy Taylor, hungover & 10 shillings heavier.
Hence the Cherry Tree’s reputation as a drinking hole for ne’er do wells was set in stone and continued all the way until it reached its zenith in the eighties, when the pub came to be frequented by one Dennis ‘Mr Death’ Allen. Allen had established a network of brothels in Cremorne that provided his bread money, but money for jam came from his interest in greyhound racing. Allen’s favourite dog was a legendary hound known as “My Doodah” whose secret to success was a diet solely consisting of leftover parmas from the Cherry Tree Kitchen. My Doodah even went on to take first prize in ‘The Winfield Blue Cup’. (Photos of which used to hang prominently at The GB). However, coronary blockages in later life lead to the degradation of My Doodah’s health, and no amount of meth-amphetamine injections could lift his performance. Allen, not one to be thwarted, turned to an inventive method of greyhound training, wherein he towed a live chicken smothered in ham, napoli and melted cheese at top speed, behind a high performance vintage car around a rectangular racetrack consisting of Balmain, Stephenson & Gwynne streets. A method in later years to be adopted in roundabout fashion by the Queensland Greyhound racing industry. Thus live bating was born.
Dennis Allen exhibits his ‘bling-bling’.
Naturally, the animal rights industry was aghast, and Allen was brought to justice under charges of animal cruelty. Allen died on the 13th of April, 1987 whilst awaiting trial. The coroner stated that “pieces of his heart actually broke off after decades of heavy cold parma abuse”. Sadly, Allen’s canine diet didn’t translate well to humans and plans by his mother, Kath Pettingill, to write a book on the subject were quietly shelved.
Lincoln Palmer, Ron Barassi, Adrian Gallagher & Scott Palmer form a human chain to prevent Dennis Allen snatching any more cold parmas from the pub. (Scott had called ‘dibs’).
Peace, tranquility & prosperity not seen since the heady days of Dr Ambedkar soon returned to Cremorne and gentle, creative & capitalistic folk returned to the area to establish marketing and design companies, free from the tyranny of Dennis Allen. Thus Advertising was born.
New owners with a new vision descended upon The Cherry Tree Hotel, and engaged a little known Danish architect by the name of Jørn Utzon to radically refurbish the decrepit drinking hole. Utzon was stumped for inspiration, but one night, whilst enjoying a nocturnal emmision, he envisaged a form for the interior of the pub that mostly remains today. The skylight is an expression of a breast he witnessed during his dream.
The pub experienced some highs and lows, but reached its nadir under a publican whose passion for cleaning beerlines was somewhat questionable. Thus, the pub, penniless and somewhat friendless, went looking for a new owner.
Jørn Utzon contemplating his ‘vision’.
Meanwhile, around the corner, Chris & Penny Hodges and their merry crew & revilers were living the good life, serving craft beer and good times to the good folk of Richmond at The Great Britain Hotel. Incidentally, the figurehead of the GB was one Dr Ambedkar, whose benevolent gaze laid eyes upon good punters from all corners of the hotel. The good Doctor was put there as homage to a great man who bought so much happiness to the people Richmond & Cremorne, and to the world via his marvelous tomato sauce.
Tragically, however, a band of reactionary Tories, angered by the perceived slight of having a pub by the name ‘Great Britain’ being figure-headed by a man who wrote the Indian constitution and was staunchly anti-commonwealth, set forth to dash the dreams of good folk of the GB. Armed with a plan to establish the bloody war criminal Winston Churchill as the figure-head of the pub, the lease was purchased and the brave crew of the Geebers were given a mere 6 months to vacate. Facing down the barrel of destitution, homelessness and imminent unemployment, the crew did what was necessary and partied like absolute & utterly depraved motherfuckers. Sending the old girl off in a beery shower of warmth & glory! Meanwhile, in between partying, Chris & Penny found us a pub. Hence, we find ourselves in the warm embrace of the wonderful, history steeped, Cherry Tree Hotel, where if you look in the right spot, you’ll see the good Dr Ambedkar, and a new chapter begins…
With humble thanks to DJ Alex & Fat Pat the Irishman. You know why…