You’ll scoff when I tell you this but I was never a fan of steak. On a menu and a chalkboard filled with exotic sounding dishes like ricotta cannelloni, seafood curry and eggplant parmagiana, the humble piece of cooked red meat seems… well, boring.
But last year, that all changed.
On a cold, dreary winter’s evening, I popped my steak-cherry one serendipitous trip to Russell Street’s European Bier Café. It was a finely looking slab of grain-fed scotch fillet that did it. Served with a tarragon-spiked hollandaise sauce, on a bed of mash and a side of Asian greens, it was an orgasmic experience. And then for my birthday last year, a religious experience at Footscray’s The Station Hotel cemented the love affair. Over half a dozen varieties of cuts of meats, a half a dozen ways fed, cooked and garnished, the arduous decision was made finally on a 450-day grain-fed wagyu rostbiff. Heaven.
So, it was with some gustatory delight when friends Scott, Ingmar, Andrew and I headed to Williamstown for a midweek dinner at a local pub.
I’m not too familiar with the history of the Morning Star Hotel though I’ve been once before. Sure, it looks to have seen its fair share of patrons and diners over the years, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It has a reputation for serving good grub and has been recommended by friends.
The vintage feel of the Star’s front bar gives the local that laid back ambiance; perfect for easy, cruisey drinking sessions on a warm summer’s evening. This same vibe is carried through to its dining room, in spite of the dichotomic white linen table cloths and fine silver cutleries. Dusty old wine bottles line the tops of the walls and curious sepia photography hang from the picture railings. The wait staff – once (in)famous for being cheeky, sometimes bordering on obnoxious – are friendly, polite and unobtrusive.
The menu at the Star carries regular pub grub – steak, fish and chips, pasta, etc – with gourmet-leanings peppered throughout. Although rather suspiciously, the humble parmagiana is absent from the menu. But this might have been more to do with my zealousness to see their steak offerings rather than a dining oversight.
So, about the steak. Two different choices are offered on the menu: a 350 gram T-bone and a 250 gram rib eye, each sub $30. I chose the rib eye, done medium with pepper sauce, while Ingmar chose the same but with mushroom. Andrew, meanwhile, decided on the T-bone, done medium rare, served with mushroom sauce. And Scott, well, he chose the fish.
All meals came served on a bed of “pub cut” chips and a small side of salad with a creamy brown vinaigrette sauce. Mine was drenched with a handful of peppercorns liberally added. The steak was soft and cooked to my liking, while Andrew commented that his was more medium than rare. I noticed that Ingmar had trimmed a good portion of fat from his, which I wouldn’t find a problem but others conscious of such things might. Overall, the food was nice, though perhaps not as good as it used to be. Certainly, the steak didn’t bring about that same kind of post-nom titillation as it did at previous venues.
Strangely, the place seemed quiet on the weeknight we visited, in spite of the evening being a nice, summery one. It’s probably a different story during the weekends. Still, the question has to be asked in an almost empty dining room… where the bloody hell are the locals?
Morning Star Hotel is located at 3 Electra Street, Williamstown. Ph (03) 9397 6082.