Yarraville’s new foodie pub

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Hyde Street Hotel, 188 Hyde St, Yarraville. Phone: 9689 2163

As Victoria On Hyde and in our now many years in Yarraville, we’ve had close to no use for these premises.

Sure, an occasional quick-stop for beer and/or wine … but the only time I ever stuck my head inside the pub proper, I promptly fled.

Now, though, oh boy!

The place has been re-branded as The Hyde Street Hotel and given a radical makeover – and we’re very happy to be taking it for a whirl on Easter Eve, about a week after it has opened.

There’s a rather spartan public bar where a limited choice of menu items is available at significantly lowers prices than in the dining room.

There’s a couple of cruisey lounge areas.

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And there’s the dining room itself – airy, bright and attractive. It almost has an outdoor feel about.

It has booths, widely separated tables and lots of room.

The menu starters are in the $10 to $20 range and display the most diversity of the kitchen’s output, with influences from Asia and the Middle East.

From there the menu diverts to regular pub fare, including “classics”, mains including roasted lamb rump and “bbq’d” kangaroo loin, pizzas and steaks – including a kilogram rib eye for two at $75.

Overall, the prices seem less than at the Mona Castle and more in line with the Plough.

We are served well by young staff dressed uniformly in hipster black and our meals arrive promptly, the wait time spent checking the place out and frankly ogling with much interest the plates bound for the tables of other families and groups.

We go for a couple of the classics.

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My fish and chips ($26) hit the spot.

The salad is a fine thing for this kind of food in this kind of place – fresh greens and some finely cut cucumber, radish and red onion, all well dressed.

The fish is three medium-size pieces of rockling that are sweetish, delicate and add up to a good feed.

Plate aesthetics have dictated the fish is placed atop my chips, so some of the latter are spoiled by oil seep – but the rest are hot, crisp and hastily consumed.

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By contrast, I feel a little sorry for Bennie in regards to his choice of the wagyu beef burger ($24), which comes with the same chips.

It appears to be a good, unfussy burger but it simply doesn’t seem to provide him much of a dinner experience.

It’s gone in about two minutes and is a messy handful.

It has good melted cheese, some greenery, sauce and mayo, caramelised onions and that’s about it.

No bacon; just sayin’ …

But brevity of eating has, in this case, no bearing on quality.

As we walk home, Bennie spends the first block or so expounding with passion and enthusiasm on his burger … the deliciousness of the meat, the “crisp on the outside and soft inside” chargrilled bun, the whole deal.

To the point of saying bacon may have been of nuisance value only.

“Next time, you’ve just gotta try it, dad!” he proclaims.

An obvious winner …

Hyde Street Hotel on Urbanspoon

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Back to our former local

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Victoria Harts Hotel, 43 Victoria St, Footscray. Phone: 9687 7581

This pub was once our very local local.

That was two moves ago and several years before the advent of Consider The Sauce.

We only ate there once, but yours truly spent time there – much time, actually – watching various football games in the days before a subscription to Foxtel made such unnecessary.

We no longer live so close, but we’re interested in checking out how it shapes up under “new management” – not that that is always, if ever, a particularly hopeful sign.

Inside, all remains much as we recall.

The new crew seems to come straight from the same template as the previous and the kitchen staff are wearing Jack Daniels polo shirts.

I even get called “Darl” when ordering.

The menu is very much your basic pub grub – steaks, some pasta, kids meals with chips for $10, a daily specials blackboard.

Bennie’s dinner desire is not featured on the menu, so he settles for chicken schnitzel ($17).

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The schnitzel itself looks rather ghastly – almost diseased, actually.

But that’s because the cheese is far more grilled than is usually the case.

The certainly brings out the cheesy factor, and Bennie’s meal tastes good to his dad.

And while I’m no expert and could be fooled in this regard, I’m pretty certain this is your actual slab of actual chook meat, as opposed to the re-constituted variety.

The chips and salad are OK, but the former seem to adhere to the dictates of a lack of generosity we seem to be coming across more and more lately in similar meals in similar places.

Health-wise, that may actually be a good thing, but still …

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My bangers and mash ($13 regular price, $10 for me as a blackboard special) looks unglamourous and drab.

But in the eating it is much better.

The snags appear cheap and nasty but are just the kind of tightly-bound Italian-style pork sausages we eat at home.

The mash is hot and plentiful; the gravy is dark and just the right kind of salty.

Both are classic cheap pub grub.

Having ordered this exact same meal in any number of places and received nothing BUT bangers and mash, I am pleased to see and eat the carrot and zucchini on the side.

There’s a big bunch of room in our lives for pubs and pub food that have none of the swishness of the Spottisswoode Hotel, Plough Hotel or Junction Beer Hall & Wine Room.

The Vic seems to be doing a fair job.

And certainly, the fact there’s a heap of locals lining up early in the week for a feed speaks well of the place.

But for similar food presented with a tad more panache, at similar prices and marginally closer to home, we’ll most likely stick with the Mona Castle.

As we depart, Bennie asks with puzzlement: “What kind of pub doesn’t have a burger?”

Victoria Harts Hotel on Urbanspoon

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Nice buns at beer hall

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Junction Beer Hall and Wine Room, 15 Hall Street, Newport. Phone: 9391 8188

The now fading days of the Geelong commute were undertaken mostly by car, but some of it was courtesy of the uncertainties of train.

That often entailed an early evening train switch at Newport, so I spent quite a bit of downtime loitering at Newport Station, sometimes taking the opportunity to do a bit of mostly desultory shopping in the Hall Street shopping precinct.

Maybe it was more about my morose state of mind than anything else, but the recall of those times is largely one of drabness and even a certain sense of menace.

Right in the middle of that shopping strip was a down-at-heel old school boozer.

In Saturday lunchtime sunshine – and with the Geelong trip just a memory – the whole vibe seems quite different.

We pass a couple of busy cafes on our way to what is now Junction Beer Hall & Wine Room.

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The management of the various establishments may beg to differ, but the new-look Junction seems to us to have a lot in common with two other pubs we have been frequenting of late – the Spotiswoode and the Plough.

That extends to the fit-out as well as the food, although the Junction – as befits its full name – has very long beer and wine lists.

Out back there’s a roomy lounge that has – we are tickled to discover – three sofas identical to the Scandinavian-style number that sits in our living room, as well as many other of the same model in different colour schemes.

The Junction has separate food menus for the beer hall and wine room, though they appear to overlap.

The beer hall menu has pizzas and steaks, going for around $30, as well as some novel snacky items such as prawn sliders and fried chick peas with cumin and salt.

But having scoped out the menu before leaving home, we’re pretty sure we know what we’re having so waste no time ordering.

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“This sure is a shiny bun,” says “Five Bowls” Bennie.

Yes, it’s my boy’s first experience with a fancy foodie burger using brioche as its bookends.

His burger with “cheese, beetroot relish, aioli and brioche bun, served with onion rings” ($14) is less of a glorious handful than he is accustomed to, so the sandwich lasts all of about three minutes.

However, the mouthful of burger I snag in the interests of science tastes outright excellent.

The good onion rings are joined on the chopping board platters by some crunchy cornichons.

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Bennie freely casts envious and admiring eyes at my pulled pork sandwich “with house made BBQ sauce and coleslaw” ($13).

That’s only right – as it’s a beauty.

Stuffed between a wonderfully fresh ciabatta-style roll are just the right proportions of chewy, flavoursome pork and tangy, crisp slaw.

Unlike Bennie’s burger, this sandwich IS a handful – and a suitably messy one at that.

Throwing in extras such as fries ($9) and alcohol could see your Junction bill climbing skywards, but the immediate locals would seem to have every reason to be happy about having this foodie pub at hand.

Check out the Junction website – including menus – here.

Junction Beer Hall and Wine Room on Urbanspoon

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Killer burgers in Spotswood

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Spottiswoode Hotel, 62 Hudsons Rd, Spotswood. Phone: 9391 1330

Even with the contemporary makeover, the Sunday night scene at the Spotiswoode is cheerily like any pub anywhere in Melbourne.

There’s family groups all over the joint, couples and single diners, too. Some are watching footy but everyone is having a fine old time.

Some folks are even chowing down on the $10 Sunday roast special this late in the day.

It’s that sooper-dooper special that has seen us return several times since our first visit.

But tonight we’re here to try the broader menu, about which we’ve heard very mixed reports.

We have to report, however, that the meals we see scurrying around us – shanks ‘n’ mash, two kind of ribs, steaks, F&C and pasta among them – look amazingly tasty and very big.

Whether this is testament to a triumph of substance over style, we know not.

But still, we’re wondering if we’ve really goofed by BOTH of us ordering the burger with lot ($15.50).

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Those doubts are accentuated when our meals arrive looking nothing special at all.

That turns out to be largely an optical illusion caused by the large white plates on which our food resides.

The truth is, these are killer burgers – hands-on, gooey, messy, unrepentant macho classics.

The buns are big and fresh.

The good-quality bacon and cheese both taste real fine.

Even the fried egg – something I can and do live without when it comes to burgers – seems just right.

The beef patty is partially charred on the outside, nice and chewy and just the right dimensions in relation to the other ingredients.

Finally, the various green bits and the tomato have a crunchy freshness to match it with the more greasy elements, providing just the right kind of contrast.

Thee are the best burgers we’ve had for a good long while, and the price is a steal.

But we both wonder how they’d go when being assessed by our pal Nat, a hardcore, finger-on-the-pulse Melbourne burger maven if ever there was.

The chips?

They’re a deep brown and look like they may be ace – but they’re just OK.

Spottiswoode Hotel on Urbanspoon

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Getting serious at the Plough

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Plough Hotel, 333 Barkly St, Footscray. Phone: 9687 2878

We attended the opening night party, and we’ve read reviews and comments – including those at Footscray Food Blog.

Now it’s time for us try a meal proper at the new-look Plough Hotel for ourselves.

It’s an early Sunday evening dinner for us, so it’s something of a departure from our usual routine of settling in for the end of weekend night.

At the time we arrive, the landmark pub seems to be about a quarter full, yet it’s already quite noisy. The chatter and hubbub are such that they render the music little more than more background rumbling.

I can imagine that when this place is really packed and jumping, that it may be a matter of shouting instead of conversing.

Still, it’s a cheerful scene and we’re looking forward to some ace food.

There’s never been any doubt that on this particular adventure that I’d lose out to Bennie in the “I’m having the hamburger” stakes.

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His “150g veal pattie served w. caramelised onions in seeded mustard, fresh tomato, lettuce, bacon, cheddar cheese & roasted garlic aioli, served w. beer battered chips” ($21) is pretty good.

For all the fancy words, it is just a burger – and he’s more than happy with that. He rates it an 8 1/2 or 9 out of 10.

I try a few hearty mouthfuls of the meat, finding it has great texture and bite but lacks somewhat in the robust flavour department.

The chips are, truth to tell, a little disappointing … in that they’re merely good rather than being the outstanding we feel entitled to expect from this sort of place selling this sort of food.

And in my case, I have to rescue my chips from underneath the chicken parmagiana ($25) that is squatting atop them.

I’m not the first person to raise this issue, and I’ll not be the last.

One question: Why?

Another question: Would a restaurant serve a steak on top of the accompanying chips?

One solution: Ask the customer their preference.

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My parma itself is very good and very big.

The chicken is beaut – flavoursome, well cooked and juicy.

The cheese layer on top, too, is wonderful, and there’s quite a bit of basil doing good things amid a sauce made with real tomatoes. The gypsy ham doesn’t seem to add any extra flavour.

The salad of capsicum strands, radish and various greens is OK, but Bennie eats most of it.

But here’s an interesting thing about my otherwise lovely parma – it’s crunchy.

Yes, crunchy!

I lift up the cheese topping to discover from whence does the crunch come – only to discover that the cause is raw onion.

Quite a lot of raw onion, actually.

Red onion, mind you, so the flavour does not overpower enjoyment of my meal, especially once I scrape most of it to the side of my plate.

But still, it seems quite odd.

An inquiry made to a staff member elicits the information that the kitchen is aiming for a twist on the typical parma tomato sauce by concocting more of a salsa vibe.

OK, I quite like the sound of that.

But the actual fact of the matter is that there’s nothing salsa-like about my sauce.

What it seems like is fairly typical Napolitana parma sauce studded with quite big chunks of raw onion.

What it seems like is a mistake.

While our meal hasn’t really rocked our world, we like the new Plough heaps and will be back.

Plough Hotel on Urbanspoon

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Plough Hotel – opening party

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Vanessa with oysters.

Plough Hotel, 333 Barkly St, Footscray. Phone: 9687 2878

The new-look Plough Hotel on Barkly St had its low-key official public “open for business” a few days previously, but we’re here for the opening party.

The pub crew have thrown their invite net quite widely so we’re delighted to run into a range of local buddies and celebrities.

The place has been done out in a rather flash-but-nice bistro style.

Whatever the feelings about the fit-out, the general consensus is that it’s a fine thing the job has been done … without pokies!

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Ms Baklover of Footscray Food Blog with Lilylauren.

Fine beers are on tap, bubbles bubble and much food is consumed.

The pizzas just keep on rolling out of the kitchen. Some are tomato-based, some have spuds and some have sausage meat. They’re all good, but my final slice of the evening – tomato and prawn with a nice chilli kick – is a highlight.

And what’s not to like about free oysters? Although Bennie remains unconvinced!

There’s also meat balls, chicken ribs and marinated olives.

But the big hit of the evening is the incredibly tender and pink crumbed lamb chops dipped in salsa verde.

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The meat raffle girls.

Some folks hit the dancefloor – such as it is – to the strains of some folky romps in the bluegrassy manner.

We shoot the breeze with Ms Baklover of Footscray Food Blog.

And we meet for the first time some much-appreciated stalwart supporters of both our blogs.

These include Lilylauren and her hubby Andrew, with whom I discuss our mutual enthusiasm for the works of Stephen King.

And we meet serial blog commentator Juz, who has kept me up to date with goings-on at the Plough, and his pals Sasha and Julie.

And they include, too, Jill, Patrick and Cheryl from Spice Bazaar Cooking School.

That’s the party – and what a lovely time we’ve had.

An actual sit-down meal at the new Plough will have to wait for another day …

Bennie and I even have a swell time walking home. That boy sure does like a late-night ramble!

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Julie, Sasha and Juz.

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“Hmmm … still not sure about this oyster business, Dad!”

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Reverence Hotel

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Reverence Hotel, 28 Napier St, Footscray. Phone: 9687 2111

Just as with the now posh Station Hotel across the road, we never set foot inside the Reverence in its previous life.

Perhaps unfairly, we always had it stereotypically tagged as what a friend refers to as a “sooper dooper old man’s pub”.

Although, and as with preconceptions of another pub still standing up the road in Hopkins St, we figure you could throw in a few bikies and crims just for good demographic measure.

All that’s changed – and how – at the Reverence these days.

It’s a two-room music venue of high repute, though I suspect most of the music would be too much of a grinding, noise variety for me even when I’m in my most grungy moods.

But there’s food and more, too, with an accent on Mexican and pizzas.

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A big crowd is building for the Tuesday night trivia bash.

There’s a pleasant beer garden out back.

But most folks, including a lot of family groups, are just like me and here for the Tuesday $3 tacos.

Taco night means ONLY tacos, so sadly I am unable, on this first visit, to try more wide-ranging items from the menu, which you can check out at the pub’s fine website here.

So I order three of the four taco options available – chicken, chilli con carne and bean.

Tofu taco? No way!

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However, so sensational, so delicious are my tacos that not only do I struggle to resist the temptation to order another platter but I also feel sure next time around I’ll be ordering the tofu number just for the heck of it.

My tacos are topped with plentiful coriander, shredded red cabbage, a little red capsicum, corn and lime mayo, each taco dressed a little differently.

I anoint each one with some of the salsa provided and a hefty dollop from one of the variety of hot sauces on hand.

They’re all great, but if anything the bean number is the highlight.

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After my crash hot dinner, I enjoy another wander around – it’ a surprise and a delight. There’s many different rooms and spaces.

I meet ardent Consider The Sauce fan Lousie.

We talk food a bit but mostly about books and reading.

I leave her to finish the final 20 or so pages of Anna Karenina.

Tuesday tacos are served from 6pm to 9pm. By the time I split, at about 7pm, the bar queue to order them is longish, so an early arrival would seem advisable.

Reverence Hotel on Urbanspoon

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