Pub: The Graham
Where: 97 Graham St., Port Melbourne
Phone: 9676 2566
Date: 16 November 2012
The Graham has been held in the highest regard amongst Melbourne pub diners who seek out food and drink at the higher end of the pricing scale. ( I loathe the term ‘gastro’ and try to avoid at all costs).
For years, I have wanted to sample simply to see, like the Court House North Melbourne and Grand Richmond, how the Graham delivers at the high end while still retaining that element of pubiness (no such word) that encourages someone to pop in and have a drink.
On the first of the two elements of the foregoing, the Graham passes in spades and its food, drink and service in the restaurant is first class.
It is the second part that intrigues me because they have a cracking public/wine bar attached to the pub that somehow seems to be a separate entity, rather than part of the front of house. (A bit like People’s Republic of China and Hong Kong - on second thoughts arguable the worst comparison I have made!!!).
Ok, the Graham still champions the fact it is pub/restaurant and I am happy with that. Perroni is the tap beer and it was served in a chilled, badged slender glass. ($7.50/330ml). It was excellent and confirmed that they love their beer; I would like though to have more tap options.
You can dine from a tapas menu in the wine bar and choose from at least 20 tastes. Open later in the day, it is smart, discreet and upmarket.
But all the action is in the brilliantly white, airy restaurant and boy, can they bang out some food with smart, attentive service at a superior level.
Yes, it costs more (putting on the pub price comparative hat - another shocker from me) but putting it all together it makes for a wonderful experience and is on par with the big gastro pub hitters in town.
But as some wise person once said...’the quality remains long after the price is forgotten’.
Wine: $40+ good bottles at all pricing points from monstrous, brilliant list
The conundrum about whether pub or just a restaurant arises when you look at exterior and there are no overt signs of a brand available or a Foxtel sign suggesting a Super 15 game is about to start.
But when you step inside, you know that this special.
The old style pub dining room was transformed years ago and now, replete with the napery, cutlery glassware, you know that the Graham has moved on. Indeed their dining room is reminiscent of the excellent Grand in Richmond, a former DeBortoli Pub of the Year.
Here’s what I liked most - The Graham makes a rotating lunch offer of 2 courses, glass of wine for $35.
Given the quality, THIS IS A PUB BARGAIN. The package is enhanced with the continuous offer of chilled water and warm home-made bread, all brought to the table.
You start to read the menu and the eyes water - literal and figurative as the menu bedazzles but you see the prices. But before you go you know the rules, and it is a tough choice between the smoked quail breast, shitake mushroom (21.5) or truffled spanner crab with salmon (yes) crackling (21.5) as entree.
Mains read equally as impressive; pan fried dory, scallop and smoked eel fondant, white asparagus, miso nage - $38.5, lavender honey glazed duck breast, confit leg, caramelized peach thyme jus - 38.5.
Try those two at home and play fair!!
And then there’s the bargain and you start to choose from the $35 set menu offer which outlines 3 entrees/mains and with a glass of Christmont riesling thrown in, that’s where you head.
The wine list wins too, as an incorrect assumption is drawn that it has to be expensive. Not so. Sure you can pay for French vintage and non-vintage, but local heroes like Christmont, Bests, Skillogolee round out around $8.5 per glass.
- Pot Sticker of the day - $16. Not on the set menu but 4 of the fattest, moist, jumbo Pork dumplings, with a light soy, are the best starter. What a treat!
- The set menu - $35. Entree was pork belly, beans, shallots and roast chilli jam - Crunchy, hot, filling (although it looks small it packs a punch). Main was a rectangle of char grilled rare atlantic salmon, roasted pumpkin and hazelnut, miso broth. Again slightly smaller, but same result - fantastic.
- Bests Great Western Riesling - $45. Award winning winery, outstanding winemakers, great drop, very fairly priced.
At the end of the day, the Graham has staked its foundations in the Melbourne dining scene and will continue to deliver knockout food and drink under the present ownership.
Unashamedly, the Graham WANTS to be known as a pub doing great food and drink, rather than a restaurant that does beer and wine.
Their offer is excellent, no matter what definition/category you want to place them in.
It is a beauty.