Spottiswoode Hotel

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

Quite a few months before our fine Sunday lunch at the Spottiswoode Hotel, we’d dropped in merely in pursuit of ATM facilities.

The Consider The Sauce ethos fully embraces bare-bones, old-school pubs, but in this case the gloomy vibe saw us heading for the exit as soon as our business was done.

Since then, the place has undergone a comprehensive makeover.

We’ve been hearing good things about it.

We’ve checked out the menu at the pub’s website, and found it to be meaty, matey and very good-looking.

We’ve been hearing good things, too, about the size, quality and price of the joint’s Sunday roast deal – Thanks, Sue! – so we’re upbeat for our visit.

The renovations have been drastic.

There’s a lot roomy space amid the three co-joined interior eating/drinking spaces.

There’s a lot of wood and vintage brick, comfy-looking armchairs, a big fireplace and a sweet spot outside with umbrellas and a woodfired oven.

And there’s even a room off to the side with pinball machines, into which we later pump a handful of gold coins.

It all looks great and we find the service matches.

The menu runs to a savvy list of pub grub classics and more priced around the $20 mark for main courses.

There’s specials during the week – steak and a drink on Mondays, F&C and a drink on Tuesdays, parma and a drink on Wednesday and curry and a drink on Thursdays, all for $15. We spy, too, another special scrawled on one of the mirrors – $16 for a whole grilled with salad and chips.

But we’re here for the $10 roast.

Thus continues this year’s Consider The Sauce romance of the roast that has taken in the Famous Blue Raincoat, the Footscray Club, Bruno’s Coffee Lounge and even New Zealand.

The Spottiswoode roast deal is as good as any.

The serves look a tad modest, but that turns out to be all about the large plates.

The vegetables – nice selection, cooked but not mushy – are really tasty.

The meat – it’s lamb on the day we visit – is tender and plentiful, although we seem to have struck a portion of the animal that’s quite fatty. No matter.

The gravy is dark and rich.

The spuds are fall-apart tender – if we have any regrets it’s that we don’t get more than the two halves each we are provided.

But that’s a minor issue considering the price, terrific atmosphere and really fine service that sees the needs of each and every table met with aplomb by numerous staff members.

We’re keen to return to explore the regular menu.

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Bruno’s Coffee Lounge

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Bruno’s Coffee Lounge, 39 Puckle Street, Moonee Ponds. Phone: 9370 0349

Bruno’s Coffee Lounge is an old-school cafe in an old-school, narrow arcade/mall off Puckle St.

It’d long ago registered in my mind as somewhere worth checking out, but it took a nudge from Consider The Sauce pal Nat Stockley to get me stepping through the door.

But I’m so glad I have.

I’ll cover the food I have on my initial visit shortly.

But what rally wows me about this place is the warmth and gentleness of the welcome – it’s like a soothing balm.

The blankie-blankie of eateries, if you like.

Many and Mick, originally from Shanghai, have been in residence at Bruno’s for about 13 years.

Before them, it was under the sway of Greek influences for eight years, and before that – and starting in 1961 – it was run by eponymous Bruno, he being of Italian extraction.

How about that?

A 50-year-old Moonee Ponds institution serving honest, delicious food across generations and cultural backgrounds! 

The couple tell me that they’ve pretty much stuck with food routines and menu they inherited, though I’m sure there’s been some tweaking along the way.

Besides – and based on my superb lunch – why would they change anything of substance?

The last thing I expect to be having is a full-on roast, but I let Mandy sweet talk me into it.

There’s salads, sandwiches and rolls and breakfasts – and more.

But maybe I’m roast pushover because of rather wonderful meals I’ve enjoyed lately at the Famous Blue Rain Coat and the Footscray Club.

The Bruno’s roast deal ($12.90) is every bit as good, maybe even better.

Really, really fine, in fact.

Sliced potatoes – roasted with salt, pepper, onion and oil; drained of the oil and then grilled; melt-in-your-mouth sensational.

Roast beef equally fantastic and moist – sliced thinly; cooked wrapped snugly in foil to keep the juices in; topped with heaps of lovely gravy.

The vegetables go pretty good, too; hand-cut carrot, cauliflower, broccoli; well-cooked but nowhere near mushy. And definitely not frozen!

Gosh, I wonder after a knockout lunch, how good might the roast pork be? Or the chicken parma or the rissole dinner?

And how incredible if the coffee’s as good as the food I’ve tried?

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Footscray Club

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Footscray Club, 43 Paisley St, Footscray. Phone: 9687 2059

The Footscray Club started life in 1894, dedicated to cycling, making it one of Footscray’s oldest institutions and quite possibly its oldest “business”.

The club’s first 10 years saw it based in Nicholson St, before moving to its current premises in Paisley St. 

A few years ago, the club sold the building … to the bloke who runs the bread shop on the ground floor.

As one member quipped to me: “He used to pay us rent, now we pay him rent!”

I am told the club’s future is assured for many years to come through a lease on favourable terms – and no doubt the Bread Shop Bloke is happy to have the space tenanted by some very nice folk.

I’d passed the Footcray Club many times, always found the street-level door closed, assumed the club was a private affair and moved on.

A few weeks back, however, I found the door unlocked, so up the stairs I went, eventually to be greeted by the week-day manager, Gary, a man whose moustache is even more preposterous than that of yours truly.

After getting the lowdown on how the club operates, and ascertaining positively that I’m very welcome, I vowed to return on another day.

Sadly, income requirements mean the lunches on Thursday and Fridays will have to wait.

On those days, the club serves a range of up to 10 different meals – $7, or $10 with a pot of beer.

Read about them here.

I am however, able to visit one of the Sunday Sipper sessions, run and catered for by the members themselves, with a more concise choice of fodder.

Finding the door locked, I press the intercom button, hear some muffled words and then a series of clicks as I continue to wiggle and waggle the door handle.

Eventually, I am let in by Lance, the club member who seems to be presiding over this particular Sunday Sipper outing.

Turns out, I should be pulling the door open …

I find a nice room done out in typical club style, with about a dozen members relaxing and enjoying, some of them, the flat-screen horse racing action or the flat-screen Bathurst action.

Meal of the day is roast beef with onion gravy and vegies – $5 for members, $7 for non-members but everyone pays the member price. Well, I did!

It’s a fine meal – and a ridiculous bargain for $5.

The spuds, carrots and gravy are tops, the beef is nicely chewy and flavoursome.

The club’s standard price for a pot is a remarkable-for-these-days $3 – $2.20 on Sundays!

The club also runs a Christmas in July bash for $15.

And a Christmas at Christmas bash – also for $15.

Club membership costs $22 a year – bargain!

As I depart a happy man, a bunch of recently arrived members are merrily setting up for that afternoon’s presentation function to wrap up another year of footy tipping.

You won’t get a bowl of pho or a cafe latte at the Footscray, but you will get a heaping serve of Footscray soul.

Check out the club’s website or Facebook page.

Famous Blue Raincoat

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Famous Blue Raincoat, 25 Vernon St, Yarraville. Phone:9391 8520

The Famous Blue Raincoat, which shares the Vernon St strip with Tandoori Flames and Motorino, was one of our semi-regular haunts in our early, pre-CTS days in the west.

I’m not sure why it ceased being so, although preferring to get our grub gratification in non-cafe settings has prolonged that status.

A recent visit for a terrific coffee after an afternoon exploring the west made me think: “Why don’t we come here more often?”

After a momentously fine Sunday lunch, I reckon we may soon be doing just that.

They’re big on music here, with a gig list that features some Very Famous Names.

No live music this lunchtime, but there’s some serious sounds on hand anyway … the classic John Coltrane Quartet seems a bit passionately overbearing for so early in the day, thankfully giving way to Tom Waits, Bonnie Raitt and more rootsy, bluesy stuff.

The Coat does a range of food ranging from breakfasts to wraps, tapas, more substantial fare and a neat kids’ list.

But I’m here specifically to try the regular Sunday roast special – a $12 roast lunch sounds like a very fine thing indeed.

Today it’s pork:

It’s a lot bigger serve than first appears to be the case.

The accompaniments are as expected – three potato segments, parsnip, carrot, broccoli.

And the unexpected – two lovely bits of beetroot.

All are beautifully cooked.

The meat ranges from crusty to lovely and tender, and there’s quite a lot of it. There’s some fat, but it’s easily discarded.

The two pieces of crackling aren’t so much crackly as rock hard – but come good with a good soaking in the flavoursome gravy.

This a sublime lunch at any price, and as good a roast meal as I’ve had.

At $12, it is surely one of Melbourne’s finest dishes.

And I can’t help but compare it with a dish I spotted in the $unday Age while awaiting my fodder …

Is that a parallel universe or what?

Food aside, this place has a warmly welcoming vibe, the back courtyard is as cool and funky as one could wish, and the cakes look to-die-for.

There’s more magic before I depart smiling … just as my perfect cafe latte arrives, the sounds switch to classic late ’30s Duke Ellington, with singer Ivie Anderson and trombonist Lawrence Brown wailing on Rose Of The Rio Grande.

Perfect!

The regular Sunday roast is matched by a more wide-ranging $12 “locals’ night” on Wednesday.

The Famous Blue Raincoat website is here.

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Mr Roast Carvery & Salad Bar

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Mr Roast Carvery & Salad Bar, Shop 7 Coles Centre, 19-21 Douglas Pde, Williamstown. Phone 9397 7878

Being in a meaty mood and with other shopping endeavours taking me to Williamstown, I ponder a visit to Mr Roast, tucked away at the rear of the Coles complex on Douglas Pde.

I’d stuck my nose in on previous occasions, only to be dissuaded by the rather soul-less vibe and not particularly attractive meats and salads on display.

So today’s the day curiosity will be assuaged.

We’d been tipped to the existence of the Caroline Springs Mr Roast outlet by the bloke who sold us our car. He no longer works for that dealer and we have no idea what the phrase “good food” means to him.

Mr Roast sells chicken, beef, pork and lamb in styles and sizes ranging from rolls ($7.50) and kids meals up to more expensive Mr Roast Meals and Scalloped Potato Meals, both of which sell for $11.95 for a one-person serve.

After asking the “what’s hot” question, I opt for the roast pork meal, with spuds and peas, obtaining a swap of coleslaw in place of pumpkin.

Yes, yes, coleslaw and roast pork are perhaps not a natural fit – but anything is better than pumpkin. (Hi Mum!)

My meal, on real crockery and with metal utensils, is brought to my table with a gravy boat on the side.

The meat is not the super tender I’d been led to expect but it’s a huge serve and really tasty. I make happy with the gravy to make up for the slight dryness.

The gravy tastes good but I don’t want to think about how it’s made or what with.

It’s in a congealed state when it arrives and cold even before I finish my lunch.

It’s a sunny but nevertheless cold day and the doors/windows out to the Coles carpark are wide open, so the rest of my meal is likewise chilly by the time I finish.

There’s so much pork on my plate – I try hard to eat it all, but fail.

The thankfully small serve of crackling is crackly, utterly delicious and sinfully salty.

By contrast, two meager and undistinguished half roast potatoes and what seems less than half a cup of peas seem a bit miserly. The peas are not of the canned variety, but their dull green colouring hints that they may be close cousins.

Reads like a litany of disappointment, doesn’t it?

Funnily enough, though, the sum is much greater than the parts and I enjoy my lunch very much.

Best bet at Mr Roast is to get there soon after the food is ready, as I suspect it will become less appetising as the day wars on.

The Mr Roast website is here.