Fine barbecue for the west

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The Park Hotel, 12 Watton Stree, Werribee. Phone: 9741 1441

The Park Hotel has been on our radar for yonks – but it seemed like every time we’d start meandering in that direction, we’d get distracted.

Tonight all the stars align.

Being unable to attend the launch of the pub’s whiz-bang barbecue range a few weeks previously, we’ve been happy to accept an invite to take the smoked goodies and sides for a run for a mid-week dinner (see full disclosure below).

So there’s big star No.1 – a new venue doing barbecue in the western suburbs.

Yay!

 

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As well, it’s the very day of Bennie’s 15th birthday so we are joined by his mum, Deborah.

And we all have a very nice time.

Many readers more locally long-standing than I will be aware of this venue’s notorious past.

There’s a running joke about the length and specificity of the Park’s dress code, which definitely sets out to prevent a return to the bad old days.

 

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So much so that “park hotel werribee dress code” is a Google thing.

But no problems these days – the Park is a pleasant, roomy and friendly venue, with an array of seating options.

Family-friendly, too.

If the music is tad on the loud side for us, there is one monumental blessing – no pokies here!

The Park Hotel menu is just part of the food they’re doing here (see menu below).

But based on our very enjoyable meal, the pub is likely to find itself a destination for barbecue fans.

Partly because the nearest specialty barbecue places are in Maribyrnong, Footscray and beyond.

But mostly because what we have is, mostly, very good and priced pretty much how we’ve come to expect this kind of food of this kind of quality.

We are not served from the menu list but instead are provided a mighty fine sampler platter for the three of us plus three sides samples.

So it’s hard to gauge where our fare would fit in price-wise – I’m guessing somewhere between the $45 Pleased To Meat You option and the $65 Meat Master offering.

So what do we have?

 

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In order of wow factor:

Lamb, rosemary and olive sausages – superb!

These wonderful snags are listed on the menu as going for $12 the pair, which we reckon is a steal.

Roast chicken maryland with a maple glaze – also superb!

Like just about everyone else, we eat a lot of chook especially given how much Indian, Vietnamese and African food we eat.

So it takes a lot to impress.

As soon as Bennie takes a mouthful of the Park chook, he opines: “Oh man, this is good!”

I agree.

Pulled pork shoulder – very nice and better than most we’ve tried in the past few years.

Cool with the “Carolina vinegar” sauce served on the side.

Pork ribs – ostensibly “Kansas City style”, these are not on the bone as we may have expected and are on the extra fatty side and a little too chewy.

Enjoyable but …

 

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And our sides?

Mac ‘n’ cheese – simple, no-frills and the best we’ve had in Melbourne.

It’s moist, rich and delicious.

Cornbread – a deep brown and with a delightful nuttiness.

Coleslaw – this is a bit of letdown; mostly, I suspect, because it has dried out a bit in the small sample tubs.

 

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Dessert?

Hey, it’s Bennie’s birthday – of COURSE we’re going to have dessert!

He absolutely loves – and inhales – his chocolate brownie with salted caramel sauce and coconut ice-cream that is turned into an impromptu birthday cake.

 

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His mum, meanwhile, is very happy with her dark chocolate and beetroot cheesecake – as are we all.

 

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Many thanks to the Park staff for ensuring we had a very enjoyable evening.

Check out the Park Hotel website (including menu) here.

(Consider The Sauce dined at the Park Hotel as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meal. We were served a selected range taken from the venue’s new barbecue line-up. Park management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)

 

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Music mates but no silverside for me

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Royal Standard Hotel, 333 William St, West Melbourne. Phone: 9328 2295

Before Consider The Sauce – before the domain name had been bought, before I’d begun to get to grips with the wordpress blogging platform and the whole blogging deal – one of the ideas I had was to combine on my site food AND music.

Wisely, I think, the food prevailed – though regular readers well know that my musical passions pop up every now and then in cameo appearances.

And that was that, I thought.

After a lifetime of writing about and broadcasting music – and chasing the groove both locally and in the US – my love of music had become a private deal.

And I’m mostly comfortable with that.

But a year or so ago, I noticed good pal and former colleague Lee was contributing to a Facebook group based around music and mateship.

I read with interest.

The I started offering up the odd interjection.

Then I joined.

 

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It’s been great.

I don’t fire up in terms of extolling what I’m digging nearly as much as some – generally speaking, about once  month I let loose with a rambling rave about my current faves in terms of funky old soul or country or jazz or cajun or swamp pop or whatever.

(The recently amassed pile of vintage stuff from Cuba, Soweto, Haiti, Columbia, Peru, Ghana, Congo, Ethiopia, Benin, Nigeria awaits raving!)

I confess to feeling somewhat out of step with the group’s general leanings – too many white blokes with guitars and a whole lotta rock of the kind with which I don’t generally roll.

But here’s the thing – as with my previous online musical communions (Blue Note Bulletin Board, All About Jazz, Jazz Corner, Organissimo – all but the last now gone to the internet graveyard), and locally at the late, lamented Hound Dog’s Bop Shop, specifics of individual tastes matter not.

Because what I really enjoy is not mostly the music being discussed but the passion with which the group members address it and the (often tall) stories that accompany.

 

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Something I’ve always been adamant about when running CTS is that when the opportunity arises, hitherto digital relationships should be put on a real-time face-to-face basis – and we’ve had some wonderful folks come into our lives through doing so.

So it is that with a good heart that I bowl up to the Royal Standard in West Melbourne to meet many of the denizens of Music4Mates for the first time.

We have a fine time over beers and tucker.

So for the company, the generous spirit, the stories and the bullshit, I say thank you to Lee, Warren, Saskia, Andrew, Brett, Baz, Steve, Diane and Johanna.

The Royal Standard is a very much old-school inner city boozer – no pokies, live music, metaphorical sticky carpet and a heap of different beers.

The food (see menu below) is suitably old-school, too, and priced accordingly.

I don’t keep track of what everyone is eating …

 

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… but I note that Steve’s (Aussie) burger ($20) looks very much the goods.

With beetroot, of course!

Extra points for crawfish shirt grooviness.

 

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My own bangers and mash ($19) are fine, with the snags being of better quality than I’d normally expect and the mash and onion gravy also good.

Could’ve lived without the salady bits, though.

 

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As ever when confronted by such a menu line-up, I’d cast around for the specials board, on which – in this pub today – silverside has been listed as the roast of the day.

Silverside? Roast?

Whatever … turns out that Brett snagged the last serve of the day – and I’m envious.

How good does that look?

 

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‘Rescued’ food in a Carlton pub

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Wendy Hargreaves with FareShare CEO Marcus Godinho and The Lincoln publican Iain Ling.

Fairshare “Rescued” Dinner, The Lincoln, 91 Cardigan Street, Carlton.

FairShare is a very worthy organisation that “rescues” food that would otherwise go to waste and feeds it to hungry people to the tune of about 25,000 meals a week that are distributed to charities.

Its “Rescued” dinner was one of those special events in which I like to indulge every now and then.

Why not?

It ticked all the boxes.

Very good cause, (hopefully) great food and the chance to meet some fine and interesting people.

 

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I confess to having some doubts about the food.

How good can a meal be when it is produced solely from food that is about to be chucked out?

A conversation with FareShare CEO Marcus Godinho soon set me right.

Of course!

There are, it turns out, very many ways in which food falls through the gaps, particularly when it comes to logistics and bureaucracy.

So the food we eat, particularly with the likes of Frank Camora helping out in the kitchen, is excellent and enjoyed by a sell-out crowd that appeared to have taken over all the dining spaces at the Lincoln.

 

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People-wise, the highlight for me is sitting down and chewing the fat – so to speak – with Wendy Hargreaves.

Wendy, a FairShare ambassador, is a fellow foodie about town – check out her website here.

In many ways, she and I are poles apart in our approaches and tastes – but the story of our overlapping interests is a bit more delightfully messy than that.

 

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You see, Wendy and I actually shared office time in my final days at the Sunday Herald Sun.

So awful was that time, for me anyway, that I have no recollection of meeting or talking with Wendy back than – at all.

For several years, however, we have been chatting, sparring, gossiping and laughing courtesy of Facebook.

 

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So this was a lovely chance for the pair of us to compare notes face to face- and lo, unsurprisingly, we found we have a rather complex array of connections and stories in common.

Ears could – or should – have been burning!

Sharing our table were another Fairshare ambassador and foodie/media personage of note, Dani Valent, along with Karen, Carl and David – they were fine company.

The food?

Oh, it was grand!

(See small menu below.)

The highlight?

The slow-roasted Flinders Island lamb shoulder with asadillo, cauliflower/grain salad and an (unadvertised) stew of chickpeas and spinach.

 

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Pub finery in Footscray

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Station Hotel, 59 Napier Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 2913

Just back from a week in Kiwiland and feeling like a lazy weekend feed – so we head to the pub.

But not just any pub.

The Station Hotel in Footscray.

It’s not Bennie’s first visit here but it is for his dad.

In all the years this place has been running, I’ve built up this mental image of it being a swish-o gastro pub of the “special occasion” variety.

 

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So I am delighted to discover that, in the bar area anyway, it’s pretty much the same vibe as any of the local pubs we are known to visit, with prices mostly to match – unless you’re inclined to venture into the upper reaches of the Station’s meaty fare.

Except that here, the food we have is without blemish and very, very good.

 

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It starts with a nice serve of beautifully fresh and crisp bread with olive oil.

We’re asked a little later if we’d like more.

We like that even if our answer is in the negative.

 

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We had a bunch of burgers while on the other side of the ditch so Bennie gets a flat “no” when it comes to the matter of the Station’s version.

Instead, he goes for the pork schnitzel with coleslaw with mustard fruit dressing and beurre noisette and is a very happy chappy ($32).

The slaw is dreamy in its excellence – crisp yet tender and easy eating, something that is not always the slaw case.

The pork rests mostly on a bed of capers but is superb.

It’s thick and crisp and a real-deal meat meal – and significantly more hefty than it appears to be in the above photo.

It’s stuffed with a mix of the same cheese as is crispped on top. Inside it’s gooey and creamy and dances with chopped prosciutto.

Wonderful stuff!

 

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I’m not so ambitious or meat-minded so choose one of the lighter dishes on the menu – penne with spicy Bolognaise, peas and fresh ricotta.

It’s fabulous in every way.

OK, so it’s only constructed on a base of commercial tubed pasta and is not so different, at a fundamental level, from the sort of things we sometimes prepare at home.

But this is peak pasta!

The fine, mildly-seasoned meat sauce has plenty of pop from the peas and creaminess from the ricotta.

But the crowning glory here are the rocket and radicchio leaves, the bitterness of which perfectly complement a perfect dish.

And at $18 for such a big serve, it’s marvellous value.

We leave happy and smiling, only to have the moment soured somewhat by having scored a $91 parking ticket in Hyde Street.

We have no cause for complaint, really, as we have been caught to rights parking in a permit-only zone.

But just why there is a permit-only zone in this part of Footscray, when the nearby flats appear to have ample parking and the town hall is right across the road, is an interesting question.

Given the Station Hotel is a famous eating place and that doubtless most of its customers do not come from the surrounding handful of blocks, we think we are safe in assuming that we are just the latest in a long line of Station customers who have thus been caught out.

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.

 

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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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