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3AW’s De Bortoli Pub of the Week: Tony Leonard reviews the Dan O’Connell Hotel, Carlton

MML

Pub:                      Dan O’Connell Hotel
Where:                 225 Canning st., Carlton
Phone:                 9347 1502
Date:                    20 November 2015
Score:                   14/20
Internet:             www.thedan.com.au

OVERVIEW

First time (ever) visit to the Dan O’Connell, this wonderful, legendary pub in Carlton, sits as the acme of inner suburban pubs that, in spite of changes in pub fashion, the Dan churns it out year in/out.

Having built its reputation of being Irish before this wave in the late 80s, the 2015 version doesn’t trend one or other way: just turns out good food and drink in comfortable surroundings.

The layout is pub lilliputian; one area of dining (maybe 40 at a pinch), lime green vinyl chairs dotted throughout, small bar, pool table in corner, TV up high. Through to a courtyard/glorified driveway, 4-5 tables. There’s a discrete function room and that’s it.

Bricks and timber; Mountain Goat and Thunder Road hang from the outside walls.

The offer from the Dan is welcoming – great barman Dave who was happy to chat when asked – and it’s the little touches such as 15 different sauces to go with the food that scream hospitality. Feel free to try out one of the genuine hot, hot chilli sauces before you smother. (Byron Bay Habanero with mango is there – ooh  yeah).

$1-3 (yes, thats correct) tacos/enchiladas on Tuesday nights, Trivia wednesday nights,  a spoil on the menu but you are the one that creates the vibe. And with a minimalist approach, the Dan works.

Comfortable, female friendly, it’s what you would want any pub to be.

Wonderful, solid, iconic citizen of pub life in Melbourne.

PRICE:                bistro menu;

Entrees:               $12
Mains:                  $24
Desserts:             not really
Wine:                   $45/$10/glass

COMMENTS

Another to be envied inner suburban pub, the Dan ticks over in an unassuming kind of way, which in spite of its highly visible location, is really set in the back streets of Carlton.

The formula for these pubs is now well established and the idea of the local being your living room is evidenced here. Small, friendly, right music at the right level, range of craft beers, better than the join the dots menus found in most pubs.

Heaven forbid a pub like this has pokies or a TAB.

While it is inexorably linked to the Irish tag, there’s nothing to suggest anything Dubliner or Tipperarian with wall hangings and instruments. It is just a good, inner suburban pub, keeping the menu and wine options to a few each and having an extensive range of craft beer on tap and bottle.

(The ever obliging barman says no multi nationals on tap; they champion locals. Two things; Coppers is Australian family owned, and one, maybe 2 of the craft may have some overseas cash in ownership. Hmmm).

Red Hill Golden Ale ($6/pot) is preferred and is delightful.

A nice spoil ($25) is available in November with 3 courses; main of 3 choices, say fish and leek pie, dessert of chocolate guinness raspberry brioche pudding with Bailey’s cream, all washed down with a choice from the excellent 8 Degrees range.

The menu ever changes. Entrees may include a croquette (porcini, fig jam, apple), sliders/dogs, all done with an added touch to elevate beyond the medium.

Further to this the mains plate up beautifully. 300g Black Angus porter, comes with a croquette, pancetta wrapped beans, celeriac mash (28).   Fish stew of Barra, prawns, mussels, chorizo, tomato (25) comes with olive bread to mop up the juices.

Pulled Pork, Lamb, Roo, Lentil, Sage and Walnut are some of the different burgers, all built differently that weigh in around the $18 mark.

Wine list is small and different, some overseas but no more than any two varietals. Again wine is priced to the mark.

Dan O’Connells has survived many changes to fads and trends.  After all of this time, in its slightly off the beaten, it survives and thrives.

TRIED:

?       Pulled Pork and Chorizo sausage rolls, house-made chunky tomato sauce – 6/$12. Long filo roll of the ingredients, split into 6 big beer sized bites, chock full of meat, slightly different texture (but still appealing), this entree sums up what smart pubs are doing with the kitchens away from 3 dips and S&P Calamari. Hot, tasty beer food, great.

?       Tempura Chicken and Shiitake mushroom parcels, (3)  asian vegetables – $24.  Stop the clocks. Tempura, rarely delivered as described on a pub menu, turned out crispy, thin and light, encasing a big mix of chicken/mushroom, big mix of bok choy and greens, is a filling and different look again at an omnipresent mix of the main players in stock/standard combination on pub menus.

?       Pulled Lamb Burger, brioche bun, haloumi, spinach, yoghurt, chips. $18. Arrives on a wooden paddle,  the meat is slow cooked and plentiful, a modern day burger that is bang on with what customers want in 2015, good eating.

?       Mt. Monument Chardy (Mt. Macedon).  $10/glass. Terrific drop, deep and rich.

SUMMARY

The Dan O’Connell rolls on and on. Indeed the mention of this pub with 50+ somethings usually gets a response of … ‘I saw The Bushwackers or The Cobbers or Brod Smith etc etc. in the late 70s’.

Its heritage is linked in music and was one of, if not the first, to celebrate St Paddy’s Day. Legend has it that more Guinness was consumed there than all of the pubs put together in Melbourne some time ago.

The Dan O’Connell is much broader than that now. It is a place of comfort, banging good smart pub food, championing craft beer, and being a place of refuge. Have a beer, gather your thoughts, and look at the passing parade.

May it continue trade and evade the developers execution for years to come.

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