Gamekeepers Secret Country Inn

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1555 Melton Hwy, Rockbank. Phone: 9747 1000

The Olde English thing has never worked for me.

I’d be hard pressed to tell authentic Olde English from faux Olde English.

In fact, I harbour suspicions that there is no such thing as authentic Olde English, even though I lived there for a few years a very long time ago.

But as I wander around the somewhat vast dining room of Gamekeepers Secret Country Inn, I rapidly warm to the place.

How can I not when its embracing of the gamey theme is done with such brazen, unapologetic and politically incorrect zeal?

There are formerly live things of the furred, feathered and scaled variety hanging from the ceilings and adorning the walls wherever I look. They’re now very much of the dead persuasion.

It was Keith of the venerable Heather Dell bakery in Yarraville from whom we got the tip about this place, but it’s a taken a year for me to find my way here.

With a drive on the Bacchus Marsh-Geelong road beckoning after lunch is done, I am finding the change of routine a tonic. I have an armful of newly-arrived CDs of the Tex-Mex and swamp pop variety, and even Hawaiian guitar recorded in Paris in the ’30s, to keep me very fine company. I love the internet!

Quite oddly the establishment’s food fare seems to be lacking any offerings of a game-based tucker equivalent of the overwhelming theme of the decor.

The food on the main menu and the cheapo lunch list that is the focus of myself, and presumably the handful of other tables in use for this midweek lunch, features a regular lineup of oysters, pasta, salads, ribs, steaks, a seafood platter, roast duck, garlic prawns and so on.

Typical country pub fare, in other words – its own kind of comfort food. This change of routine, too, can sometimes be a tonic and I’m looking forward to my lunch.

Having already perused the option at the inn’s website, I have my heart set on the corned beef from the lunch list, which also includes braised lamb shank, steak sandwich and beer-battered fish and chips – all for $14.50.

How nice and quirky is it to be charged $14.50 for something – as opposed to, say, $13.99 or $14.99?

The vegetable component of my lunch is very good – they’re cooked through but still have a beaut element of crunch.

The mashed spuds aren’t a patch on the coarse skin-on version we rustle up at home with just olive oil, salt, pepper and parsley, but I like it anyway.

The sauce, using a seeded mustard, has sufficient tang to overwhelm my three medium-thick and very mildy-flavoured slices of corned beef.

Remember back a decade or more ago when corned beef became so very trendy around Melbourne? This is like that – I hanker for the heftier, saltier flavour whack that resides in memory of the corned beef served countless time to me during my upbringing by that most superb of cooks, Pauline Ethel Weir. (Hi Mum!)

Maybe it’s another trick of the mind.

In any case, I save my last slice of Gamekeepers corned beef to savour at the end of my meal, at which point the flavours do come through with a strongish whiff of cloves.

It’s all good and I enjoy my lunch. The bill of $14.50 seems pretty fair for this kind of food in this kind of place.

After eating, I embark on another stroll around, taking in more of the dead critters and the music room upstairs. The entertainment fare seems to be very much of the Kenny, Dolly, Big O and Neil variety.

After paying and exiting, I walk across to the neighbouring Galli winery, where I am knocked out by the gorgeous dining room and peruse their menus, which actually traverse very similar territory and price range as those of the inn I have just departed.

Another one for the hit list!

My first ever drive on the road from Bacchus Marsh to Geelong is pleasant but somewhat featureless, though I do see lots of parrot-type birds – of the live variety this time.

The soundtrack is fabulous.

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