Meal of the week No.17: Prince Albert Hotel

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At about the time CTS enjoyed a lovely meal at Williamstown’s Prince Albert Hotel we became aware they were soon to join the ranks of those offering Sunday roast meals.

Of course we had to check it out!

Bennie and I subsequently turned up and went away disappointed as we’d arrived a week too early for the roast introduction.

This Sunday, though, I am even more in the mood as it’s a chilly and rain-blasted day.

The pub is warm, I pay for my roast pork plate, wait and am then blown away.

The Prince Albert is setting a new benchmark if this lunch is anything to go by.

The above costs $15 and it’s wonderful.

A handful of crisp spud chunks.

Another handful of delicious, whole roast baby carrots.

Two meaty slabs of pork with tremendous flavour, not as fall-apart tender perhaps as rare roast beef or lamb but superb eating nevertheless.

A mound on the side of fine, mustard-laced slaw.

Nice tub of jus for dipping.

Downsides?

The apple sauce is cold and the pork skin is chewy rather than crisp.

But so good is my lunch I feel churlish even mentioning them.

Wow.

See earlier story here.

Sunday pub roasts? We have a winner.

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Railway Hotel, 35 Anderson Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9687 2034

Sunday roast lunches at pubs – $10, $15, $20, $25?

Do you get what you pay for?

As far as we know, the Spottiswoode Hotel continues to offer a grand $10 deal on Sundays.

Others we know of in the inner deliver offer $20+ offerings.

This Sunday, Bennie gives up on his desire for Vietnamese tomato rice in the face of his dad’s determination to go roast.

We first head for a certain Williamstown pub we believe now has $15 roast lunches on the menu, but on arrival we discover they will not start until the following weekend.

Plan B is return home, park the car and walk to our local, the Railway Hotel, which has been advertising $18.50 Sunday roasts – sort of a middle ground price-wise , with two kinds of meat on offer.

Will it be worth the extra dollars?

We pay, get our number and wait.

 

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Bennie chooses the pork.

I try a mouthful.

Perhaps unsurprisingly it’s dry but – good stuff – tender enough.

But it IS full of strong, good piggy flavour.

The crackling is a tad salty but all of it is crisp and a joy to eat.

One pub manager has told me it’s simply impossible in regards to power bills to serve roast veggies at these sorts of prices.

That I don’t mind.

The spud is roasted and herbed and very good.

The beans, broccoli and carrots may be steamed but they are wonderful – cooked more than al dente and perfect.

 

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I select the roast beef (top photograph).

It’s fabulous.

It appears to be smothered in good gravy.

But as it turns out there is just enough gravy – and only just enough – to support the meat.

I am served three slices that are just shy of half an inch thick.

The meat is tender and tastes grand.

It breaks apart in strands that I more familiar with from dining on brisket at BBQ joints.

This is new and wonderful territory for me when it comes to roast beef.

There is so much of it, I keep offering Bennie hefty chunks even as I close in on the final slice.

“I can’t eat it all, mate!”

“That’s because you aren’t manly enough …”

I am on a serious food high as we skip down the street for some sugar and spice from our fave ice-cream joint.

The Railway Hotel Sunday roasts have convinced me that sometimes, at least, you do get what you pay for.

And it’s still a bargain.

 

Railway Hotel on Urbanspoon

 

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A fine pub experience at the right end of the CBD

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Hotel Spencer, 475 Spencer Street, West Melbourne. Phone: 9329 9116

Once upon a time, long ago, pre-Bennie, pre-blog, I dined at Hotel Spencer when a record company picked up the bill.

At the time, IIRC, it had forged something of a reputation for hearty pub food, including offal and the like.

So Bennie and I are happy to accept an invitation to dine there and see how it’s going these days (full disclosure below).

The answer is: Very well.

The new bosses, Wes and Hennie, have been in the house for about two years.

There’s quite a lot of residential tucked away down here either side of Spencer Street, and Wes tells me with enthusiasm about their regulars and locals and the good things that are happening in the neighbourhood.

 

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It’s a gorgeous place, particularly the dining room.

To my spectacularly untutored eye, there is something of the art deco about it, but Wes tells me the place was built in 1850.

The upper floors are taken up by backpacker accommodations.

The menu is very keenly priced, with just one dish clocking in at above $30 and quite a few mains below $20. It has many typical pub dishes but also a few things more unusual.

 

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The vegetarian antipasto platter ($18) makes a fine and light start for us.

The arancini are chewy in the middle, crusty on the outside and anointed with a periperi sauce that leaves my lips all a-tingle.

Bennie loves them.

Bennie doesn’t like zucchini.

Nevertheless, I persuade him to try the chargrilled zuch slices, so good are they!

Yep, he digs them.

The eggplant doesn’t quite pack the same flavour punch.

The hose-made chutney, olives, roasted red capsicum and mozzarella with pesto are all fine.

 

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One I spotted bobotie ($22) on the menu, I was always going to try it.

I’ve done some beforehand homework on what is sometimes referred to as “South Africa’s national dish”, so am a little perplexed by what I am served.

It’s drier than I am expecting and has lentils.

Turns out, this is the Hotel Spencer gluten-free interpretation, hence the lentils instead of the traditional milk-soaked bread mixing with the beef, and I’m told, curry powder, turmeric, cinnamon, coriander, salt, pepper and chutney, with more of the latter on the side.

It all is tucked under an eggy custard topping that makes it a little like moussaka.

Likewise in terms of gluten-free, “cauliflower rice” replaces regular rice – it tastes good!

I enjoy my bobotie, and I am intrigued by it.

Would I order it again?

Hmmm, not sure!

 

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I am so busy contemplating my main, and eating it, that I plain forget to quiz Bennie about his chicken burger ($16), though the mouthful I sneak tastes good to me.

But as we later walk back to our car, and are discussing our Hotel Spencer experience, he opines without prompting: “I liked my chicken burger – it was really good!”

Good enough!

 

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For dessert, we go with the “Treat Yourself” platter ($19), which has samples of all on the menu.

There’s a crunchy bread pudding, a croissant pudding that has Bennie humming with joy, a milk tart and house-made chocolate ice cream.

It’s all very good and quite the bargain.

 

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We’ve loved our visit to Hotel Spencer and envisage a soon-come return to check out the very attractively priced specials.

Added bonus for those coming from the western suburbs: For a mid-week dinner, there’s stacks of parking.

Check out the Hotel Spencer website, including menu, here.

(Consider The Sauce dined at Hotel Spencer as guests of management. No money changed hands. We ordered whatever we wanted. Hotel Spencer management did not seek any editorial input into this story.)

 

Hotel Spencer on Urbanspoon

 

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A terrific Willy pub

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Prince Albert Hotel, 149 Douglas Parade, Williamstown: 9397 5117

Consider The Sauce has got a lot of advice from doctors in the past six months.

Some of it has even been about food.

One of them, for instance, a Williamstown local, spoke admiringly about the Prince Albert, its $12 burger nights and its perpetually $15 parmas.

Bennie and I stuck our noses in one Sunday night, really liked the vibe of the place and vowed to return, though we did dine at our fave pizza joint that night.

Then, a few weeks later, the following arrived by email:

“Hi Kenny, I’ve recently discovered your Blog & Facebook Page. I am Michael, one of the new owners at the Prince Albert Hotel in Williamstown. I took over this pub four months ago alongside my father in October, and would love to invite you down for a meal on us to check it out and see what you think and if it’s worthy of a blog post, which I hope it would be.”

Why sure, we’re into that!

(Full discolsure below …)

On the night we visit, I find out that Michael and his dad have little or no pub or hospitality experience, though Michael did work at the Prince Albert for 10 months or so before the pair took the joint over.

Perhaps that fresh-faced approach is no bad thing, as I reckon these guys are definitely doing something right.

 

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There’s a casual bar area and there’s a beer garden.

But it’s the slightly more formal dining room that knocks me out.

This has an elegant ambiance, without being stuffy.

We have a lot of good foodie pubs around us these days but a newish sheen is often part of the deal.

At the Prince Albert, I feel like we are soaking up the love from a comfy yet spiffy local, the whole deal accentuated by the very good black-clad, relaxed staff.

The four of us share two starters …

 

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Chicken and sweet corn croquettes with avocado and tequila dip ($16) are daintily crisp on the outer, rich and gooey on the inner, though there seems only the mildest chook or corn flavour to me.

The dip is OK but not, IMO, a very good match for the croquettes.

 

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Salt and pepper squid ($14) is likewise dainty and fresh but is under-seasoned by the rights of our four palettes and their utter familiarity with highly-spiced food of various Asian varieties!

But wait … we’re just getting started and things get better for us.

Lots better …

 

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The recipient of the seafood linguine ($26) likes her choice plenty, telling me that with it absence of tomato it is a bit different from what she might expect in a swish Italian eatery but still very enjoyable.

I’m surprised to see unbidden grated cheese atop the pasta prawns but my pal is fine with that as she likes it that way.

 

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Two of us choose the top-of-the-line rib eye steak ($34), mine with a basket of fine chips, red wine jus, a good slaw and equally fine and fresh rocket, cucumber and tomato salad.

 

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My meaty companion gets the same slaw but opts for mash and asparagus.

Wowee, this is the best steak I’ve had for a long, long time.

It has a just-right but suitably subtle charred and salty exterior and is cooked perfectly to the requested specifications (medium rare).

It’s perfect!

There’s a heap of places where you can get an equally great chunk of beef, of course, including in the west.

But the great thing here is that Prince Albert steaks come complete; there’s no need to top up with extra sides.

The accompaniments are all terrific and make this something of a bargain.

 

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Our visit coincides with Tuesday’s $12 burger night, so predictably that’s what Bennie chooses to do, getting the $12 sandwich as opposed to the $24 job that’s on the regular menu – we’re told they’re very similar in any case.

He likes his burger but is a bit “meh” on it, telling me the relish doesn’t “do much”.

I dunno, mate – it looks mighty fine to me.

Could be it’s time for this young man to start thinking about what other food is available to him.

Could be a case of too many burgers!

We four share two desserts …

 

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Eton Mess ($12) looks like a disparate array of components but the raspberries, passionfruit, meringue and ultra-rich cream work together to very yummy effect.

 

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The waffles ($12) are also tasty, though I do wish the very good brought-in ice cream and strawberries had been served to the side in order to preserve waffle crispiness for our eating pleasure.

As ever, Consider The Sauce partaking of food for which we don’t pay is no impediment – and never will be – to an honest appraisal of our experiences.

But the minor quibbles mentioned above should in no way be seen as detracting from our enjoyment of the Prince Albert, the esteem in which we hold it and the super night we’ve had.

We wish it was our local!

And I reckon we’ll be back soon … if only so I can try that burger for myself and see if Bennie’s “meh” should have rightly been “mighty”!

Check out the Prince Albert website here and check out the pub’s Facebook page for the cheap weekly “night” specials.

(Consider The Sauce dined at the Prince Albert as guests of management. No money changed hands. We ordered whatever we wanted. The Prince Albert management did not seek any editorial input into this story.)

 

Prince Albert Hotel on Urbanspoon

 

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Country pub lunch and Boris

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Cosmopolitan Hotel, corner High Street and Cosmo Road, Trentham. Phone: 5424 1516

Our Monday trip to Trentham and Woodend, postponed from the heat-struck weekend, has as its main purpose choosing a new family member for Bennie and I.

But of course we have multi-faceted aims that include eating.

As company we love having along two pals who are as intensely passionate about all sorts of critters as they are about a good meal.

After a nice, safe drive on a lovely summer’s day we depart our car, stretch and take in the fetching surrounds of Trentham.

Original plan had been to dine at the town’s famous bakery but we make an impromptu last-minute decision to try one of the two pubs on main street instead.

We do good.

The food we try is typical pub fare, enjoyable and fairly priced by the standards of our westie pub haunts.

 

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The cool, gloomy bar and dining room are almost deserted, but we love the garden out back – it’s big and charming thanks to its slight scruffiness and plentiful shade.

As we commence our lunch, we are among the first customers. By the time we depart, the place is doing good trade for a Monday.

 

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A shared plate of Cosmo fried chicken with chipotle mayonnaise ($14) is beaut.

The crumbed chook is hot, superficially grease-free, tender and tasty; the smoky condiment is marvellous.

 

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Two of us go the chicken parma ($19).

It’s a winner, the thickish chicken slab tender in the middle, hot throughout, topped by the usual and with a nice sage tang permeating.

The chips are excellent.

What is it with parmas and salads?

Is there some sort of dictate-from-on-high that means parma salads must always look like a clone of the above pictured mix of mismatched ingredients?

 

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Thankfully, the salad accompanying Bennie’s salt and pepper calamari ($28) is much better, with its orange, radish and fennel components in harmony with the rest.

This is our most expensive selection, but there’s no doubting its quality, the soft-textured batter allowing the calamari’s flavour to sing.

 

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Spinach and ricotta dumplings with basil, napoli sauce and parmesan ($26) are a lighter treat with appropriately milder flavours.

 

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On the way back to Woodend, we pause for a breather at Trentham Falls – yes, that’s Bennie right in the middle there.

 

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Then we’re at Pet’s Haven for the culmination of a long-considered decision – yes, a feline for us.

I don’t let us get too involved in hand-wringing because, yes, they’re all gorgeous.

I withstand Bennie’s forceful arguments in favour of one particular kitten, but only after ascertaining from the staff that the fact it has only one eye and stitches where the other used to be will in no way harm its chances of finding a new home.

We settle on a feisty 11-month-old black devil named Boris.

 

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So now Team CTS is three.

In our first 48 hours with Boris, I wonder if I’ve made a mistake – if perhaps we should have chosen an older, more sedate and settled companion.

Boris is a small holy terror, a ball of hyper-energy.

But then again this is probably the first time he’s been able to run and cavort relatively freely for who knows how many weeks or months!

Check out the Cosmopolitan website here and Facebook page here.

 

Cosmopolitan Hotel on Urbanspoon

Checking out the new Yarraville pub

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Railway Hotel, 35 Anderson Street, Yarraville. Phone: 9687 2034

After watching, like so many Villagers, the fading into the past of a scruffy pub and the unveiling of a new, shiny incarnation, we’ve taken our time checking out the new Yarraville local.

We’re wandered in a number of times but never quite got round to taking the plunge.

For one thing, it’s often seemed mad busy so we’ve gone elsewhere.

But to be truthful, it’s the pricing that has been a sticking point.

I’ve been a feeling a sense of duty, obligation even, to put the CTS take on the Railway out there but …

Singapore noodles for $26?

Lamb curry – made with “saltgrass lamb” – for $26.50?

It’s not that I mind paying such prices.

 

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But long experience with items such as high-priced, fancy fish and chips and $25 laksas served in seafood emporiums has taught me that not only are such things expensive but also that all too often they are simply not very good.

So, yeah, I’m suspicious.

Even more so when there are three pubs nearby with similar pricing schemes and proven track records, and at least a couple more that fall into the cheap ‘n’ cheerful genre.

But arriving home from work mid-week, I’m resolved to get the job done.

That resolve is cemented when I retrieve from the letterbox a flier announcing the commencement of $15 parma Tuesdays at the Railway – that’s more like it!

So off we go … for what actually turns out to be the first such parma evening.

The place looks great, though is still recognisably the same building – it’s not like they’ve knocked down any walls or anything.

We secure a table for the two of us without any fuss, though from there on in new arrivals have to wait.

The staff are cheerful and obliging.

And we eat.

 

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I’m more than happy for Bennie to trial the Railway burger ($21.50).

He likes it, too, but not with boundless enthusiasm.

The patty looks great and the whole thing impresses as a good, solid straightahead burger.

Bennie likes the cheesy/herby effect and his chips are excellent.

But he’d rather have a burger meal right across the road at a significantly lower price.

 

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My $15 parma is something else entirely.

In fact, I’m happy to make a big call – this is the best parma I’ve had in the western suburbs and one of the best ever.

From a list of five I’ve selected the Mexican, with the option of cheese topping added – and it’s a doozy.

The real chicken breast is piping hot and emitting steam. It’s tender, moist and flavoursome.

The mix of onions, peppers and nice glow of spice heat is sufficiently like the ingredients of a classic parma for my dish to maintain strong links with tradition and that mix is all-round delicious.

It’s a very moist project so any crunchiness in the crumb department is gone, but I don’t mind in the least.

And it’s so big that in the end I carve off a hefty chunk for Bennie to enjoy.

My chips, too, are very good.

The salad is average – but isn’t that almost always the cases with parmas?

But even then, given the high quality of the chips and parma, $15 is a ripping bargain – and would still be so at $20.

 

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Our server is happy to engage in a bit of banter about the $26 Singapore noodles – she reckons they’re grouse.

Who knows?

Perhaps the price reflects excellence and value.

Maybe we’ll order them one day – or maybe the onion and cauliflower pakoras for $14.50.

But in the meantime, we’re happy and satisfied that the Railway is starting to feel like our local.

 

Railway Hotel on Urbanspoon

 

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Southern style in Yarraville

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Fat Thursdays by Bourbon Street @ The Commerical Hotel, 238 Whitehall St, Yarraville. Phone: 9689 9354

All your food trucks and fancy cafes are good and well, but we have to say we are happy and delighted to discover the Commerclal Hotel is up and running once again.

It’s only open three days a week but that’s a win when compared to the sad sight we observed whenever we drove past what seemed to be the abandoned Hyde Street institution.

Inside, all is as much as we recall – a scruffy, lived-in pub ambiance of a sort so hard to find these days that the Commercial almost comes across as a museum piece.

And there’s food – but only on Thursdays.

It is being provided by an outfit called Bourbon Street, which operates a lunch delivery service of southern American-style goodies to the Melbourne CBD and inner suburbs on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and to Yarraville, Seddon and Footscray on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

 

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We like it that they’ve called their dine-in project at the Commercial Fat Thursday; we’re rather less impressed with it being called a pop-up – a term much over-used and misused.

As ever with this sort of food, I keep my expectations and hopes in check.

In this case there seems good cause, because despite the use of the names Bourbon Street and Fat Thursday, the in-house menu is studded with items not usually associated with the famously non-BBQ city that is New Orleans – “cajun brown rice” (huh?), pulled pork and jerk chicken among them.

Of course, this is Melbourne, this is the west and in the end I’m oh-so-glad I don’t get hung up on stuffy notions of authenticity – for what Bennie and I have is a fine meal indeed.

We order a main apiece and then load up on the sides (see menu below).

 

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We rather regret getting our BBQ beef and jerk chicken with the rice rather than in roll form. The rice is OK but rolls would’ve been more in keeping with our dinner’s flavour.

My beef and his chicken are fine.

But it’s the sides that do it for us.

The prices are very cheap – surely the cheapest for this sort of food in Melbourne.

At places around town that serve similar fare, getting the number of sides we split between us would result in a rather hefty bill for what is meant to be blue-collar food.

No such problem at Fat Thursday – it falls comfortably inside the cheap eats realm.

But there’s nothing cheap about the quality and the serves are of a good size.

 

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 Fried okra – whole, freshly battered and yummy.

 

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Potato salad – very nice.

 

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Corn that is just corn but that fits right well with the rest of our meal.

 

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Coleslaw – very nice.

We also get mac ‘n’ cheese, which tastes good but is a little on the dry side, and jalapeno cornbread, which comes in the form of three small muffins – they’re good, studded with corn kernels and have a delicate spice glow going on.

It’s been a cool hoot to sit in the venue of so many previous happy times – all of them pre-CTS – and eat some pretty good southern-style food without feeling in the slightest bit inhibited by the pricing.

 

Bourbon Street @ the Commercial Hotel on Urbanspoon

Commercial Hotel on Urbanspoon

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