The birthday girl specified the Belgian Beer Garden as the venue, without realising that (a) there is another Belgian Beer Cafe at Southbank, or that (b) the St Kilda Road venue that she meant had recently changed its name. Once it had all been clarified, she and about 20 guests found ourselves gathered at what is now known as the Village Brasserie (557 St Kilda Road, Melbourne).
It's a fantastic beer garden. Huge, set among neat lawns and tall shady trees, with long wooden benches, umbrellas, and a long, well-manned bar; all under the pleasant backdrop of a historic building that houses the restaurant. According to the website, the entire venue is under development with the aim of "expanding and creating a village with many new, exciting spaces" - only it's difficult to get more information than that, because the PDFs currently downloadable from the site are all jumbled and illegible.
The entire party took up about three tables in the far corner of the garden (I didn't even know it stretched that far) - unfortunately the furthest distance from the bar, but also the quietest area and the only section that retained sunlight until sundown (the other parts of the garden were all shaded by trees or building). The downside of this sunlight was potential sunburn, as our tables weren't equipped with umbrellas like many of the others. But, with drinks in hand and lots of eye candy around, we didn't mind!
Drinks were on the pricey side, which was unfortunate, and I think the boys found the beers a bit wanky. The sav blanc was good though. Despite the big bar, there were easily a few hundred patrons there, all wanting drinks, so the necessity of a cordoned bar queue was justified. The toilets suffered the same fate: always a queue, but fast-moving. The girls' was a bit inadequate: poorly designed to handle the numbers, bad lighting and only two hand basins. They were also a bit stinky and not the cleanest. Not the most important part of the venue, obviously, but rather misaligned with the classiness of the rest of the place.
As the sun went down, the crowd was reluctant to disperse. The separate food bar also had a constant queue. (I can't tell you about the food because I didn't have any.) Fairy lights strung throughout the garden added a dose of magic, as did the full moon (I organised that myself, though...).
It was a lovely afternoon and evening. With a few improvements - I am excited to see the final developments - Village Brasserie will hopefully be wanting for nothing.