Mikkayla reviews: The Cosmopolitan Hotel — ‘one of the best country pubs in Victoria’
The Cosmopolitan Hotel
Corner High St and Cosmo Rd, Trentham
Every single country pub in Australia has its fiercely loyal clientele, meaning the debate over which is the best of the lot will never truly end. Victoria alone is chockers when it comes to these regional historic venues that offer wholesome hospitality, good food and a well-curated drinks list. Each one is truly worth the road trip no matter where they lie, if only for the banter you can have with the publican over the bar while they pull beers and greet all the locals by name. No longer just a watering hole for those that live within a stone’s throw away, these sorts of places have become honest to goodness destinations – you come for the nostalgic history, are attracted by the modern upgrades and amenities, and return for the amazing meals that take full advantage of the abundant, locally-grown produce.
Around 87km northwest of Melbourne is the small, boutique town of Trentham. The former gold mining area lies between Daylesford and Woodend, Kyneton and Mount Macedon, and is a startlingly beautiful postcard of thriving greenery, hidden oases, local friendliness and community connection, and an established star in the competitive dining destination-scape across Victoria. You can just feel the pride emanating from the town as you drive through, and their wholesome honest attitude shines through the abundance of honesty boxes along the roadsides next to the masses of potatoes, eggs, honey and other goodies.
It’s a fairly quiet, sleepy sort of feel when you come in on a Thursday, though still full of surprises for the uninitiated. There are some chic art galleries, a few lovely boutique clothing stores, and a couple of gorgeous little gift and homewares places. A crafty little business is closed – the sign’s opening hours state ‘Random’, which is of the same spirit that the town’s two bakeries have embraced – one is closed, and the other only bakes bread on the weekend! The lovely young girl behind the counter helpfully suggests we may find some bread at their local IGA as we eye off the vanilla slice and pie warmer.
The Cosmopolitan Hotel is not a newcomer to the area, nor to the spotlight. A town staple since 1866, it was named runner up in Tony Leonard’s highly-contended 3AW Pub of the Year back in 2013. Set on an acre of heritage gardens, there is a calming, laid back ambience, leaving the ghosts of their 2005 fire well in the past with a loving and respectfully rebuilt restoration that keeps the building’s original charm and heritage firmly intact. The menu doesn’t leave you feeling overwhelmed by a paradox of choice – there are some traditional pub meals available, but then there are some unexpected delights.
Korean fried chicken ($18) is one example. Gloriously messy wings coated in a mildly spicy, sweet and savoury Korean red pepper paste, or gochujang. Served on a bed of slaw, they are finger-lickingly addictive – grab some extra serviettes though and be prepared to get sauce everywhere.
Wild mushroom fettuccini ($34) served with grana padano shaved over the top is generous with the array of varied, juicy, meaty fungi. The pasta is authentically-rustic and cooked to perfection. The menu online does promise gnocchi instead of fettucine but we’re not disappointed by this unforeseen change to our intentions.
Half a Bannockburn roast chicken ($35) is smothered with a house-made jerk seasoning – cumin, nutmeg, allspice, smoked paprika and cinnamon all feature heavily, with just enough red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper for a splash of heat and some brown sugar for a well-rounded depth of flavour. The chicken is cooked to perfection, and served with a rich, South American slow-cooked bean mix, charred corn on the cob, and a little jug of spiced bourbon jus. Rich, flavoursome, moist and exciting on the palate. An excellent choice.
The pork rib eye ($36) from the Western Plains is fat, juicy and tender, served atop a bed of buttery pumpkin risotto, with spiced apple relish and asparagus wrapped in prosciutto on the side. Simple yet delicious. Just like all their items. Each dish has clearly been carefully cultivated to showcase the best ingredients available in the region and the high-quality is evident with every beautifully-presented meal.
The Cosmo has put just as much thought and care into their wines list as they have their superb menu. Embracing local drops, you’ll spot reds from Kilmore, Heathcote and the Yarra Valley; whites from Sunbury, the Pyrenees and the Macedon Ranges; and beers from Woodend, Healesville, Ballarat, and Bendigo – amongst all the other local representations (of which there are a LOT).
Grab a group or take your partner; bring along the dog or let the kids run free – go alone if you have to, it doesn’t even matter. Just get yourself to one of the best country pubs in Victoria.
The Cosmopolitan Hotel is open for lunch Wednesday to Sunday from midday to 3pm, and for dinners Wednesday to Saturday 5.30pm to 8.30pm.
Thank you to Steve Corden from Twitter for the recommendation! Keep them coming @mikkaylamossop