not quite a gastropub, but pub food with real flair

My brother and his wife just had their first child recently so weren’t able to make it to my birthday dinner proper. Dad suggested having another (!) family birthday dinner a month after to make up for it. The initial choice was the lovely Station Hotel in Footscray, but sadly they were booked out for our chosen evening. My second choice was Hotel Lincoln, in Carlton. None of us had ever been before but they were perfectly happy to accommodate a baby in pram so that definitely sweetened things for us.

In typical familial form, all of us were late, some more than others. While my partner and I waited, we ordered Napoleone and Co. cider. It’s a very subtle and sophisticated cider and doesn’t taste alcoholic in the slightest, which is very bad as it makes it very moreish. Later when my brother, his wife and my baby nephew arrived, he tried it and seemed quite taken by it too. The three of us drinking it stuck with it for the rest of the evening, prompting a joke from our waiter that we had nearly depleted their supplies of it.

All of us ordered entrées except Mum who was concerned she’d filled herself up on their fresh, soft bread. Brother had pork crackling with fennel salt from the charcuterie selections, his wife and I the cured salmon with sour cream and toasties, Dad had the Middle Eastern spiced crab cakes with tabbouleh and tahini yoghurt, and partner had the grilled ox tongue with tomato relish and grilled potatoes.

The jokes were flying in regards to the pork crackling – it is very popular among Filipinos to have chicharon – seasoned pork crackling. Hotel Lincoln’s version is virtually flavourless, and you sprinkle the fennel salt according to your taste. I know it’s unhealthy, but it’s a fantastic snack to accompany beer drinking.

 pork crackling

The cured salmon was satisfactory and to be honest, not much can go wrong when it’s served with fresh sour cream.

 cured salmon

Easily, the bravest choice for entrées was the ox tongue. I had no idea what to expect: would its appearance be off-putting? I didn’t think so, but partner’s brain seemed determined to remind him that it was OX TONGUE and not tender, delicious red meat. What do you think?

 ox tongue

I wasn’t sitting very close to Dad so didn’t really get to ask him much about his choice. He said it was okay, but didn’t volunteer much other than that.

 crab cakes

Overall, I think the entrées were well received, but no one seemed to be amazingly turned on by any of theirs. Would mains impress us more? Hopefully so.

Brother and Dad were definites for steak. Both chose the 250g Victorian Yearling Fillet which came with a choice of béarnaise or Roquefort (yum!) butter. Both chose the former. I don’t think my brother knew what Roquefort was and wasn’t game to ask. One thing I will point out: brother asked for his steak to be medium but it came out medium-rare. As far as I was concerned, that was his problem because he chose not to inform staff as soon as he cut into his steak. We did press for him to do so, but he assured us it wasn’t a problem and that he’d be happy to eat it as prepared.

 steak and chips

Mum, predictably, had the market fish – blue eye with Indian spices and coriander and cucumber relish. It’s become her thing to have fish of the day when it’s available.

 blue eye

Partner had the rabbit loin with creamy mash. I wanted to have this, but chose the mussels so as to ‘test’ out as many dishes as possible. He said the rabbit was a little lacking in taste, but the mash and sauce was very yummy. The meat did seem a tad dry.

 rabbit loin with mash

I had the mussels à la meunière. Yes, I’m on a bit of a mussels/seafood kick at the moment, but as I said above, my partner chose what I wanted and I was quite happy to go with mussels, and these beauties from Spring Bay were massive as was the serving size. My dish came with handcut chips and homemade mayonnaise. Sadly, I left most of my chips due to being so full – such a shame when the mayo was superb.

 mussels with white wine

However, I wasn’t leaving without dessert! Good thing a few others decided to join me too. Mum chose the fruit salad with orange jellies which I have to say, looked very ordinary.

 fruit salad

My brother’s wife didn’t want to brave the raspberry clafoutis, and so had the chocolate pot with shortbread and orange marmalade, the latter of which I’m told was very sweet. Marmalade isn’t really supposed to be sweet… For a stock-standard dessert, it certainly looked impressive. The chocolate underneath the garnish looked so rich and creamy.

 chocolate pot

Partner and I shared the bombe Alaska – I was so looking forward to having my very first one! Tart passionfruit pulp mixed with sweet, soft meringue and an ice cream centre which I think was also flavoured with passionfruit. So dreamy. Has Masterchef brought it back in vogue?

 bombe alaska

The service was excellent and they were very accommodating when it came to bringing my baby nephew (who was very well behaved), but I can’t help but feel that the menu let us all down a little. Of course, as far as pub food goes, this is top-notch, but in terms of true gastropub fare, I don’t think they’re quite there just yet. However, if I’m ever in the area on a Monday, I’d love to try the bar meals which are all $12 before 8pm – this is quite the bargain. I was tempted by many of the bar snacks as starters before deciding upon my final choice. It’s not too far away from the CBD so head out if you can. I’m pretty sure I’ll check out the bar menu in depth at some stage. The dining room is a romantic, intimate space and I’d recommend it for dates because it’s nice and quiet so you can converse freely.

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10 thoughts on “not quite a gastropub, but pub food with real flair

  1. Ryan

    I would have chosen the same as you. Rabbit, like duck, seems rare to come by on eateries’ menus and so I’m always keen to have it for a meal when featured. A tip: best rabbit dish I’ve had thus far is one from The Deck at Southgate; braised rabbit gnocchi. A must try.And an aside, you’ll find – surprisingly – that quite a few places are accommodating with having a pram/high chair for the little ones. They get an extra star in my books.

  2. tristankenney

    For me the standout dish was the bombe Alaska; the passionfruit pulp cut through the sweetness of the meringue and ice-cream perfectly, and the biscuity base was a nice textural variance from the softness of the dish.I must say I warmed to the main (rabbit loin) as I ate more of it, and the mash was quite special – so smooth and velvety I questioned whether it was actually potato.Despite the fact that the dishes weren’t spectacular, it was staffed by friendly attentive people and it’s nice to visit a place that serves more traditional English / French fare.

  3. Gem

    @Ryan exactly – duck I guess I’ve seen more readily available, but not rabbit. I haven’t been to the Deck yet, but I recall you had a very good meal there. The restaurant put us in a special bit away from the rest of the diners, and locked the door so no one would come in via the entrance we were near so as not to disturb little one. Such gestures are always appreciated! The new parents were very happy about this.@Tris the bombe was pretty special, and yes, the staff were really lovely. As I said, I’d really like to go back and check out the bar menu/snacks, as they had some great things listed there. Ooh, and yes, velvety mash is quite a treat!

  4. Agnes

    Oh you had a bombe Alaska! I’ve never eaten one, but am thinking now (after seeing yours and the previous post on this blog about them) that I should try making them. I even have passionfruit on the vine so could give it a go with passionfruit!

  5. penny aka jeroxie

    I quite like this place but everything I have been it seems the food is a little under seasoned. Hope I have better luck next time

  6. Gem

    @offthespork Agnes, I *had* to have the bombe Alaska, it was calling my name! If you can make it (I’m probably not skilled enough just yet), do so – meringue and passionfruit are quite the delightful pairing! Even better you have some growing.

  7. Gem

    @jeroxie it’s a lovely place but perhaps it has a little way before it’s a true gastropub. However, I would not complain in the slightest if this was my local watering hole! Do you remember what you had, by any chance?

  8. Michael

    If the Lincoln isn’t a gastropub, I don’t know what is. I love this place. The venison (not sure if it’s still on the menu) is my fave.

  9. Gem

    @myachinghead Michael, no venison, or I would have ordered it, yum! I guess I’m just spoilt having been to the Station Hotel in Footscray a couple of times. Like I said, I’d love to go back and check out their bar meals.

  10. Pingback: (live, love) eat, drink, stagger » northside gastropubbing antics

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