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3AW’s De Bortoli Pub Of The Week: Tony Leonard reviews the Steam Packet Hotel, Williamstown

MML

Pub:                      Steam Packet Hotel
Where:                 13 Cole St., Williamstown
Phone:                 9399 9600
Date:                    23 October 2015
Score:                   13.5/20
Internet:            www.steampackethotel.com  

OVERVIEW

An institution in both Williamstown and Melbourne due to its 120+ year history, the Steam Packet Hotel remains a much loved and treasured pub.

Its facade has gone through many changes, currently a yellowish hue, but its location just off the main drag means it’s more local than weekend trade.

But as this suburb is a bit of destination because of its history, go and seek it out and a pleasant, hospitable time will be had.

Essentially comprising two rooms, bar and dining, the SPH is fastidiously clean, warm and welcoming and appeals to locals with steaks/meal deal nights (worth checking out if you want a spoil), jazz and sport on the Foxtel.

The front bar is perfectly lit; not too much shade, not too much light, while the dining room is simply gorgeous with the wine racks and food blackboards on the perimeter walls.

No TAB/No pokies.

While the food runs through the pub staples as most will, the dishes are pitched higher but not in price.  The equation of fair and value in meal pricing appeals. 

Ditto the small wine list; again whose pricing was fair.

The SPH has stood any test of time and even though it has been years since the last review, I was pleased to see it comfortable full on a recent Thursday lunchtime.

Good. Honest. Pub.

PRICE:                  bistro menu;

Entrees:               $9
Mains:                  $23
Desserts:             $8.50
Wine:                   $36//$8/glass

COMMENTS

With friends from interstate over for the races, the request was for a local pub with a bit of history and the Steam Packet is all that.

Knowing what to expect made this one an easy decision as the last visit – 2009 – and my memory was of a good experience that delivered at the right price.

Six year on it ticks over very well; pricing at all levels fair and reasonable.

A couple of things rankle. The background music, while no doubt pleasing to the ear of the bloke behind the jump, was too loud for the time of day (1230), and the beer was OK, due to the glassware not being as well treated to retain the lace.

Sum of not much I concede, but just the little things make for the full experience.

THE right angled front bar, timbered and dark, sets a tone that sends the right notes. Not overly nautical, but the colours and prints on the wall are warm and inviting.

THE dining room, fully exposed kitchen is as good as any smallish pub.  Blackboards surround the galley. The food is good pub grub, some nice twists and turns and generously apportioned.

Calamari, Arancini, Portugese Chicken skewers make up a fairly priced set of entrees, which still retains one of Melbourne’s best pub entrees Barramundi spring rolls (the only time I’ll concede to this fish in a pub).

It’s all good.

Mains included a seafood paella (23.90) and this dish is making a late run to challenge the Croquette as the most added to pubs’ menus this year.  Oven Baked duck breast, chilli, orange, plum glaze, (26) Curry of the day with mango raita, rice, pappadams  (18) and steaks priced between $25-30 all have nice touches to elevate beyond the ordinary.

Wine list doesn’t go corporate (good) and the delightfully named Good Catholic Girl (perhaps the little sister of the SevenHill range), Mokandunda and Capel Vale offer clever and different. Pricing is very fair.

The Steam Packet, after 122 years, kicks over as strongly as it ever has.

TRIED:

?       Barramundi Springs rolls, homemade dipping sauce – 2 for $9.90.  Big, long tubes of barra, asian veg, come with a fantastic sauce, a  mix of soy, ginger, chilli. Meaty, tasty and a wonderful starter, and excellent value,

?       Pork Rib Eye, noodles, asian vegetables, teriyaki sauce . $21.90. The rib eye was meaty, dry and wet noodles gave crunch and starch BUT for another week, the kitchen  overdoes the gravy, smothers everything on the plate, and the sweet/salty taste overpowers the rest,

?       Calabrese parma, C&S – $24.90.  Big, Thick, housemade parma, spicy tomato topping, hot salami plentiful, salad and chips support the lead singer – Good pub parma.

?       Fermoy Estate, (WA) Cab/Merlot – $39. Easy soft drinking Red, priced very fairly. Nice point of difference from the pub.

SUMMARY

The Steam Packet Hotel rolls on neatly and after a long absence, the pub’s interior is still whipsmart and welcoming.

Front bar and dining room present a place of community and while the competition in Williamstown is plentiful, the truth is (in my opinion) there are few ‘must get to’ pubs and experience this beautiful and historic suburb.

Pricing for food and drink is about the mark, and there is sufficient diversity to appeal to all.

I liked it again.

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