Tag Archives: pub food

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.

Hotel Lincoln on Urbanspoon

beautiful dining space, lacklustre dining experience

My mother celebrates Easter, but I do not, being a heathen much to the chagrin, oddly enough of my non-practising Hindu father (no, I don’t get it either). Mum asked if she might have dinner with me and my partner, and wanting to keep the peace whilst my father is abroad for the funeral of his sister, I of course agreed.

Mum normally likes to keep her venturing local, unless it’s for a special occasion. Thinking her preferred local eatery was closed for the religious holiday, I booked for us to eat at Wesley Anne in Northcote.

Wesley Anne, dining area

See the delightfully romantic booths in the dining area in my admittedly appalling photo? We were not seated in them. Despite it being empty, we were put on a table so that all pedestrian traffic could squeeze past our table to get at the loo or outdoors. I’ve seen it remarked on Foursquare (did I just cite Foursquare?! Yes, I’m afraid I did) that the staff seem either vacant, or just plain distracted by goodness knows what. As we waited for our entrée, we were given a small plate of bread rolls, with olive oil and balsamic. Um, is one bread plate each too much to ask, guys?

 bread rolls with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Mum and partner weren’t very hungry, so I suggested that we share the mussels in white wine amongst the three of us. Too bad it wasn’t fish or we’d have that Jesus thing down-pat (joke). Oh gosh, the mussels were very good. Partner reminded us all to save our bread to mop up the remnants of the sauce. It isn’t classy to do it, I’m sure, but I’d do it again.

 mussels with white wine

I suspect by how quiet Mum and partner were that I might have chosen the best main out of the lot – the French creamy chicken and bacon pie with mash and peas. More hearty, rustic food. The mash was pretty ordinary and quite dry (seriously, I’ve better mash made by non-foodies), so I left it begrudgingly despite my mash-love but put my peas in to get the leftover pie juice. That sounds a bit wrong but it wasn’t thick enough to call sauce as such. I was tucking into my pie with such gusto that I completely forgot to try what I assume was tomato sauce, as pictured below.

 chicken and bacon pie

Mum had the Wesley Anne’s take on chicken Maryland, which supposedly was Mexican (she said it tasted very Indian-inspired), and supposedly on pilaf. I’m a bit stumped as to why they drowned the so-called pilaf in sauce (yes, this time it’s sauce!) as that sort of ruins the fluffiness of pilaf. Mum didn’t utter a compliment once about the dish, which made me feel a little guilty about dragging her out all this way for unimpressive food. She did also note at one stage that a couple had come in and summarily inspected the menu and dashed off without ordering anything. Not a good sign. With a bit of pressing a few days later, she admitted she didn’t like her dish at all.

 chicken maryland

My partner had the pork salad, which sadly was very lacklustre. The amalgam of flavours from different cuisines suggested it didn’t quite know what it was, or what it wanted to achieve.

 pork salad

I am ashamed to say that the entire time here, I did not once imbibe an alcoholic beverage. Wine-lovers will appreciate the variety of the list, but I was in the mood for a decent beer and nothing took my fancy. Its atmosphere is a bit confusing: while on one hand it seems very plush and sophisticated, the service seems to indicate the contrary. It is standard practice at many pubs to help yourself to a menu and order at the counter, but that doesn’t mean that you have to forsake good customer service. There are dozens of other bars and restaurants on that strip of High St (some of my notables include the Northcote Social Club, and Kelvin). Having said all of that, because its location is 15-20 minutes out of the city, and it’s also a bike-ridable distance for me, I’d go again for a barhop especially since learning from Beer Bar Band that they had Mountain Goat Steam Ale on tap (I’m so kicking myself for not realising when I was there, sigh).

Note: photographs reproduced with kind permission of this kind fellow.

Wesley Anne on Urbanspoon

city-parma relations at an all-time low

I admit it, it was an awful week. I was in struggle town. So when my mates R and N of parma smash fame decided it was time for parma and drinks afterwards, I dragged my sorry arse out of the house. Yeah, life’s pretty hard when your mates want to eat out with you, eh? *wink*

N and I racked our brains, and I consulted Urbanspoon. Based on a review I saw on Spatula, Spoon and Saturday, I suggested we try Coopers Inn. In all honesty, I can’t really think of many places in the CBD that serve a good parma – I usually think of North Melbourne pubs, Carlton, and the outskirts of the city centre when I think good pub food. Coopers Inn is on Little Lonsdale St, and all of us were planning to get drinks at Little Peninsula which was on the same street. Laziness got the best of me.

The lads chose chicken parmas, N had the bangers and mash, and I somewhat bravely had the slow cooked pork belly. Dared by N, I asked if the parma was bigger than my face (I am a small lass, much to my disappointment). He didn’t bat an eyelid and immediately confirmed that yes indeed, it most certainly was.

chicken parmagiana

R waxed lyrical about the cheese and oregano, but later recanted the parma’s deliciousness on account of it being somewhat dry. T was disappointed in the distinct lack of attention paid to the salad (no dressing, not particularly crisp or fresh), and found his chips too salty. I think the worst dish however was the pork belly, and it pains me to say so.

slow cooked pork belly

This could not have been slow cooked unless that meant leeching all the moisture out of the meat – the pork was very dry (I don’t think even my parents have cooked such a dry roast) and the crackling could only be broken once I soaked it in the gravy. As N pointed out, I should have been handed a steak knife. I’ve had some killer pork belly before – most notably at Meshiya (also in the city) where the fat and meat both possess that silken texture as you bite or cut into it. The most recent time I had pork belly was at the Northcote Social Club where they didn’t quite get the crackling right, but the meat was satisfactory. Such a shame as the mash was just heavenly – so velvety and it even had mustard seeds. I finished my entire meal, on account of hunger, it must be admitted.

The beer selection is okay – there is a good choice, and I had the Matilda Bay alpha pale ale which is totally for the hop-lovers. After having this beer, the Fat Yak will taste inferior, I warn you! Overall, the Coopers Inn is a pretty laidback place and reasonably priced. If you want passable pub food, then I would recommend it, but if your taste is more discerning, I suggest you go elsewhere. I’d eat here again, but the search for a really good CBD chicken parma continues.

Thankfully, good tunes and cheap but very drinkable cocktails awaited us all at Little Peninsula, a few blocks away.

Coopers Inn on Urbanspoon