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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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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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”!

(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.)

 

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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.

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.

 

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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.

 

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West Welcome Wagon benefit – the wrap

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Plough Hotel/CTS Fund-raiser for West Welcome Wagon
Plough Hotel, 333 Barkly St, Footscray.
Tuesday, October 7, from 7-9pm.

Many, many thanks to everyone involved for making this such an enjoyable and worthy night.

Through a mix of ticket sales and our auction we all helped raise a handy figure of cash money to help West Welcome Wagon continue its amazing work.

Our friendly, terrific crowd included a number of CTS regulars and a bunch of WWW types – sometimes both at the same time!

 

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I had hoped to have WWW founder Mia address our mob, but the situation was a tad too noisy for that.

Nevertheless, Mia seemed to spend some time with all our guests and I hope she and her friends enjoyed the night as much as I did.

 

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The Plough staff were working very, very hard on what turned out to be a busy night but looked after us well.

The food – pizzas and a whole lot more – was truly fantastic.

I’d never run an auction before, and coming off a long day at my regular gig, I wasn’t sure I was up for it.

But it turned out to be a whole lot of fun!

So congratulation to Brigitte, who took home both the printer from Techville and the cookbook from the Sun Bookshop, and Amy who grabbed the lovely glassware from inviteme.

And thanks, too, to the other bidders who kept the interest levels high!

 

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West Welcome Wagon – the auction

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For further information on this event, go here.

In addition to the fine food and company to be had at the fund-raiser for West Welcome Wagon – co-hosted by Consider The Sauce and The Plough Hotel – we will be auctioning some goodies generously donated by three fine Yarraville business as follows …

( … and get those hands in the air, people!)

1. Chris and Andrew of Techville (above) have provided a Brother MFC-J4510DW printer with wireless networking, FAX and A3 capacity.

Value: $300.

 

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2.Simone from inviteme has provided beautiful glassware.

Value: $80.

 

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3. The Sun Bookshop has donated the lovely cookbook Streat.

Value: $45.

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To book for this event, go here.

Yarraville pub – back to the future

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It’s something of a surreal hoot to stand amid the gutted rubble of the Yarraville boozer as it undergoes a drastic refurbishment.

Consider The Sauce gets it that there is some sadness around about the demise of inner-west old-school blue-collar pubs.

But CTS has no doubt the Yarraville pub has been in need of a new look and a fresh direction for some time.

And talking to Jason (pictured above), spokesman for the new all-westie owners, I rather think there are grounds for optimism.

There will be no pokies and not even pizzas – or “not at this stage”, in terms of the latter.

He says the reopened pub – the mooted date is mid-October – will be “a traditional pub with a twist”.

 

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And it is surely a good sign that the joint will revert to being called the Railway Hotel – vestiges of which remain.

The menu is in the process of being formulated, so everything Jason tells me comes with an “approximately” qualification.

But and just for instance … chicken parma for $21.50, unless you buy one on $15 parma night (Mondays).

There’ll be bar food/tapas.

And there’ll be a Sunday winter roast deal.

As well as an all-new wine list couple, there will a selection of boutique beers, including Two Birds.

 

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