Roast with the most

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Fitzroy Town Hall Hotel, 166 Johnston Street, Fitzroy. Phone: 9416 5055

It’s been a while between drinks in the Sunday roast lunch department for CTS, so I am delighted to step out – and outside the Melbourne’s west – to meet Nat at the Fitzroy Town Hall Hotel.

It’s a lovely place on Johnston Street.

It’s done up nicely, though I suspect it’s life and times stretch way back.

Oddly, I have no recall of it from my early-days-in-Melbourne – my first three abodes here were in Fitzroy.

But then, food was pretty much – but not entirely – mere fuel for me then; I was busy with other things.

Going by the menu and the various blackboards around, this pub is a serious foodie destination.

But we’re definitely here for the roast.

Nat has a strong hunch I’ll be delighted.

He’s dead right.

Most of the Sunday roasts written about in the CTS archives are of the cheap ‘n’ cheerful variety that lob in somewhere in the $10 to $15 range.

But we are only too happy to pay more for real class.

Fitzroy Town Hall delivers.

 

 

Our plates of Diamantina topside wagyu with winter vegetables, Yorkshire pudding and gravy are a dream and worth every cent of the $25 we pay.

All is good; all is – actually – perfect.

Even the water cress fits right, rather than being a mere garnish.

The celeriac remoulade on the left is pungent enough for me to ignore the proffered selection of mustards.

The beef is rare, juicy, stupendously good.

At first glance, I start wondering how much an extra slab of meat would cost.

But it turns out to be very sufficient, especially as …

 

 

… the bowl of sooper dooper spuds we share is so generous.

With them come a handful of Yorkshire puds.

And even these are winners.

So often, in my experience, they are akin to fossilised turds.

Here, though, they are light and a boss part of our meals rather than a nod to stodgy tradition.

 

Meal of the week No.41: Victoria Hotel

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The announcement that the Victoria Hotel was introducing a Tuesday curry night claimed our attention.

And to be honest, we’re not sure why – with so many very affordable and often excellent curry options close to the refurbished pub (43 Victoria Street, phone 8320 0315).

Nat and I surmised that it might have been because we had such a fine time during our initial visit to the Middle Footscray establishment.

That visit’s favourable impression having since been reinforced by favourable feedback from friends and readers who had visited the place.

As well, based again on our enjoyment of the food previously, maybe the pub’s curry operation – hopefully – would provide something above and beyond the offerings of the local curry shops.

Whatever – we’re up for it!

So how do we go?

Pretty good, actually.

We’re offered two curry packages – paneer and peas makhani or kadai chicken.

We both go chook.

The curry meal deals cost $18 and come with a good-size bowl of chicken curry, rice, a fistful of papadums and red onion slaw.

Kadai, also known as karahi, is a simple curry made with many of the expected spices and capsicum.

Ours is mild and quite tangy.

We like that the boneless chicken has seemingly been chargrilled before being wed to the gravy.

The rice and papadums are fine.

The red onion slaw?

A bit disappointing.

We have been looking forward to an alternative to the frequently served (elsewhere) hard nobs of commercial mango pickle.

Our red onion mix is OK, but I would’ve loved a bit more tartness and zing.

Putting aside the likes of dosas, biryanis and thalis, if you ordered the components of our meal for dinner just about anywhere in West Footscray, it’d cost the same $18 or more.

Autumn menu goes good

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Park Hotel, 12 Watton Street, Werribee. Phone: 9741 1441

Consider The Sauce has been bemused in the past month or so by the doings of a newish western suburbs food business.

On the one hand, they’ve been talking up the outcome of a fancy photo shoot.

On the other, they’ve been serving – in my couple of experiences and likewise for some friends – food that bears not much resemblance to that pictured in those slick pics.

So I am interested to see how the Park Hotel goes in terms of replicating the fare depicted in glossy, beautiful photographs accompanying the media release heralding the joint’s new autumn menu – the one we have been invited to try (see full disclosure below).

More broadly, I am interested to see if the Park is actively helping to build Werribee’s foodie reputation.

A long-term tenant is being sought by Wyndham council for the Bridge Hotel, just up Watton Street apiece, promising a potentially snazzy venue to join various other outpourings of good food in these parts.

A hunch: Werribee could be a food star in coming years.

We start with an absolutely ripping dish – zucchini and cauliflower fritters served with red curry mayo ($10, top photo).

Oh boy, these are so good that when/if we next visit, I’ll be awfully tempted to persuade the staff to upgrade them to main course status.

The minced/chopped vegetables remain wonderfully al dente and the mayo has just the right amount of zing.

 

 

Pan-fried kangaroo fillet with pancetta and truffle potato gratin, treacle-glazed parsnips with a red wine and dark chocolate jus ($32) is Bennie’s first time with eating roo.

He likes it plenty, though it seems to me the meat could’ve been hotter than the lukewarm he’s received.

 

 

From the specials list comes my chargrilled atlantic salmon with garlic-wilted spinach, kipfler potato and a dill hollandaise ($28).

The fish is succulent, tender and tasty, despite apparently being more well-cooked than is often the case with this species.

The vegetables – as with those on Bennie’s plate – are perfectly OK, but seem more like regular pub food than the step-up in class I’ve been seeking.

And I’m regretting, a little, not having bought into the Wednesday night fried chicken offerings (see details below).

Bennie’s having none of that.

Proclaims he: “Dad, this is way better than normal pub food!”

OK, based on our desserts he’s on target.

 

 

“I’ve never tasted anything like this before,” says he of the sticky date panna cotta with butterscotch sauce, caramel popcorn and green apple gel ($12).

And he means that as a compliment!

The unusual flavours are winners in a fine sweet offering.

 

 

The custard tart with orange and blackberry compote with a toasted croissant ice-cream ($12) is almost as enjoyable.

But it does surprise.

We have been expecting something gooey and viscous – along the lines of a vanilla slice or creme caramel.

Instead the custard tart itself is quite solid – more like a slice.

Still good, though!

(Consider The Sauce dined at the Park Hotel as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meal. We ordered whatever we wanted. Park management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)

 

Pub ribs rock

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Commercial Hotel, 111 Watton Street, Werribee. Phone: 9741 2322

Tootling down Watton Street looking for a carpark, I am bemused.

But not nearly as bemused as Bennie and Deb, his mum.

At issue is the nature of our destination – seemingly the sort of pub that would normally struggle, and fail, to gain the attention of CTS.

A confession: I have been seduced by the nice Facebook pictures of the Commercial Hotel’s food, these featuring occasionally in my feed because of the joint’s links with the Werribee Bears rugby league outfit.

I’m not diehard fan of the club, but did venture down there for a couple of games last season.

Even if the pub at hand would normally fall out side CTS paramters, we are – as ever – upbeat and hopeful.

Truth is, had I twigged the Commercial is a pokies venue, this adventure almost certainly would have been stillborn.

Happily, the pokies are well away from the dining room – out of sight, out of earshot and out of mind.

That leaves us to happily enjoy the old-school ambiance.

The Commercial’s dining room feels – from the carpet up – just like a country pub.

As we expect, the menu (see below) is studded with the sorts of dishes routinely found in such places.

But there’s a few nice wrinkles in there, too.

 

 

Deb goes the roast pork dinner ($13).

It’s a beauty, with a heap of good vegetables and more than enough highly porky and nicely cooked meat.

She loves it; the plate is clean when she’s done.

Not just a fine roast dinner, but a bargain as well.

 

 

For Bennie, it’s the pulled pork burger ($20), which tastes a lot better than it photographs.

Oddly (perhaps even weirdly), the pulled meat appears to have been formed into a pattie.

It tastes good to me and he enjoys it.

But it’s fair to say Bennie has just about had it with pulled meat of any kind in burgers; me, I’ve had it with pulled pork period.

So often so mediocre!

 

 

It’s a subjective judgment, but for me the stars of our collective choosing are my BBQ baby back ribs ($33).

There’s two good-size rack pieces in there.

The meat is tasty and tender, and comes from the bones with ease.

I know there’s people out there, for whom gnaw is the desired and happy norm, who will think that no recommendation at all.

Still, for me this is a fine BBQ meal, the pricing of which can put some of the specialist BBQ joints in the shade.

The ribs are handily abetted by a fine slaw.

Really, the only disappointment of our Commercial outing is the chips Bennie and I are provided.

They’re OK – but also under-done and under-salted.

Check out the Commercial Hotel website here.

 

Williamstown, an interesting arrival

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Bob’s Diner @ Rifle Club Hotel, 121 Victoria Street, Williamstown. Phone: 9367 6073.

One Friday night, and long ago before Consider The Sauce started, Bennie and I ventured into the Rifle Club Hotel, having heard there was a some Thai food going on there.

That turned out to not be the case, and we fled, figuring the establishment – then – was no place for a boy and his dad.

Now we’re back after learning that a crew called Bob’s Diner has set up shop.

Truth be told, this pokies venue is not a good fit for us, but we’re prepared to give it a crack.

The dining room has been done out in basic diner style and, as expected given the the name of the place, burgers are big on the menu.

But there are also such items as poutine, chicken wings, fish and chips – and even a grazier’s beef pie with sauce and mash.

 

 

The chips ($5) come in a good-size serve and are enjoyed by us both.

 

 

My SouthWest Chicken Burger ($12) is an enigma.

Bun, coleslaw, briny pickle all good.

The chicken is crumbed and crisp.

But tastes of nothing.

Is it re-constituted like a chicken nugget?

I can’t tell, but it disappoints.

 

 

Bennie does a whole let better with his cheese and bacon burger ($12).

This is a good, solid burger that is priced right.

Given the dearth of eating options in the immediate neighourhood, Bob’s Diner is sure to be of interest.

But we’d advise savvy scrutiny of the menu and quizzing of the staff.

 

Get on board

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Station Hotel, 59 Napier Street, Footscray. Phone: 9810 0085

These days, there are a handful of inner-west pubs that appear to aspire to offering very good pub tucker or fare beyond that.

But in some ways, the Station Hotel is the grand old dame of that scene.

It’s been around a goodly while, has had at least one management change of which I’m aware and – more recently – experienced a fire that closed the joint down for a few months.

We enjoy a lovely Tuesday night there, with good service and a happy atmosphere in the mostly full dining room and more raucous goings on in the bar.

We like it very much that the Station aims high but stays a pub.

It’s a birthday night at CTS HQ, so there’s a sense recklessness in the air – this is one of the very, very rare times in which “cheap eats” does not join “melbourne” and “western suburbs” as an automatic tag for a story.

Wheee!

 

 

Good bread and room-temperature butter are complementary; this is mostly for Bennie’s sake – given the weight of food we plan on enjoying, I leave it alone.

 

 

We love cauliflower so have no hesitation in ordering the cauliflower croquettes with romesco sauce ($14).

And are disappointed.

They are expertly cooked, ungreasy and chockers with gooey rich goodness.

But they are largely tasteless and certainly bereft of cauliflower flavour, according to both of us.

 

 

Much more impressive – and tasty – is the tuna tataki with “miso mayonnaise” and pickled cucumber ($19).

Every mouthful is a zingy, ever-lovin’ jumble of top-notch contrasts.

The mayo is confusing, though, as we taste not miso but do detect a nice wasabi tang.

Not that it matters!

 

 

One of us was always going to order steak – and that turns to be, well, me.

That order being in the form of this knock-out “rib eye, 500g Great Southern, (Vic) British breeds” ($55), cooked medium rare.

Now look, as is no doubt obvious from the now many years of CTS, we are not really steak men.

So this proclamation by both of us may not be based on much.

But …

BEST.

STEAK.

EVER.

The meat is quite heavily seasoned and is quite salty, but that’s fine by both me and he, who also gets quite a good go at it.

The spuds and salad are fine, but are largely superfluous to the carnivore carnival – as are the pepper and bearnaise sauces on hand.

 

 

By comparison, Bennie’s pan-fried pork fillet with apple and apricot stuffing on pearl barley and peas with cider jus ($35) is rather demure.

He enjoys it plenty, however, and the meat is superbly moist and tender.

He’s less impressed with the barley base, which seems like a touch of brilliant to his father.

 

 

“Tastes of chocolate and caramel” ($14) is perhaps a tad too fiddly for the likes us apple pie guys, but we enjoy it anyway.

Underneath that dome of “chocolate mirror glaze” is a globe of caramel parfait – not quite ice-cream, not quite cake, all wonderful.

 

 

More appropriate for us is the luscious vanilla panna cotta with a berry and meringue topping and a fresh berry and cream shortbread off to the side.

This being a once-a-year kind of splash-up meal for CTS, we order cafe lattes to be enjoyed with our desserts even though it’s a mid-week evening.

The barista’s first go is deemed unworthy, with the second attempt missing our long-completed desserts by quite some margin.

They’re good, though, and we are not charged for them.

It’s been a fine night, a special night for the CTS lads.

Check out the Station Hotel website – including menu – here.

 

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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