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Pub Of The Week: North Melbourne Hotel

Pub: North Melbourne Hotel
Where: 480 Victoria St., North Melbourne
Phone: 9329 1634
Score: 15/20
When: 22  September 2017
Website: www.thenorthmelbournehotel.com.au

By Tony Leonard

The North Melbourne Hotel (NMH) has been resurrected by the D’Oliveira family whose track record in taking over pubs and ‘successfully doing them up’ is unrivalled in Melbourne.

Recently trading as Rubiras, Jose and Sandra have taken it over (they still run the Bouzy Rouge) and from the get go, you see their signature  touches but unmistakably you are in a pub.

The front bar is long, so finding a place – sit or stand – is easy. Plenty of seating to relax away from the bar, and the adjacent dining room – akin to an inside courtyard with its verdant undertones, provides an delightful spacious area to eat quietly or in number with family and friends.

This is a fabulous option for the inner north/west and has a different feel to the Courthouse hotel of 5-6 years ago.   The food carries a slightly higher price tag, but not excessively so.  There is real value in the quality of the meals that fall again into that category of smart pub grub.

Happy hour,  meal deals, sunday roast; The NMH does a better level of ‘pub things’ that only experience in this caper can bring..

My only reservation to its success is its location. For whatever reason, this venue has seen them come and go (years ago I saw the Reels perform here when it traded as the George). I don’t know why this is the case, but 12 months in, the new team is here for the long haul and making inroads.

All moving parts are fantastic and a genuine contender for the DeBortoli pub of the year.

MENU:

 The NMH describes its food as modern european; it has the D’Oliviera fingerprints all over it from a Jalapeno ‘Popper’ covered in pancetta ($4) to a 12 hour cooked lamb shoulder  (for 3) at $80.  One thing for sure and it is not a join the dots menu, enhanced by the pairing of different tastes with the main courses. The menu is not overly extensive but a big tick is the provision of meaningful vegan options. Roast chook, Pork cutlet marinated in dijon, a vegetable paella:  the food does not disappoint.

Entrees $14, Mains $28, Desserts $14

TRIED:

 Jamon Croquettes. $4/ea. Very Good. Balls of smokey, rich,  jamon, are hot, moist, addictive  and delicious. 2 bites and they’re gone and you want another!

Duck Leg slow cooked in Balsamic, quince, Roast Shallots, Soft polenta. Tuesday special – $25 – includes a glass of Pinot noir. Very good.  What an interesting pub combination, and what a bargain. Meat is excellent, ditto its mates on the plates. A winner.

Fish of the day, Sweet Potato Roesti, Pea Puree, Red Pepper salad.  $32. Very good. A beautiful, charred Swordfish fillet is perfectly cooked. The fully plated accessories work so well with this fish that this is real value.

 DRINK:

A few drops on tap, starting with North Melbourne draught at $4/pot – and good too; wider with bottles local and imported. Similar deal on wine where local e.g., Frogmore, Pocket Watch, Dal Zotto, support and extensive imported list.  Like the food, there are prices for all budgets but are in line with pub standards i.e., $10pg//45/bottle. Tried was Leeuwin Estate Riesling at 11pg.

SERVICE AND STYLE:

Outstanding.  Expertly drilled, table service, simple things like homemade bread and a pool of oil/balsamic, a taster of a wine you are unsure of, clean rest rooms.  In the grandest traditions of The castle, you get ‘ the vibe’ on entering.

SUMMARY:

In Melbourne pub life, Jose and Sandra D’Oliveira have been unerringly successful in turning the old inner suburban boozer into something special, with an eye for detail the equal of any old/new publican. Three decades – at least – bear testament to this.

A better level of everything from the fixtures and fitting to ultra smart and desirable pub grub, this husband and wife team are genuine trailblazers on our hospitality landscape and hopefully will be acknowledged such in time to come.

The North Melbourne Hotel runs to the formula brilliantly;  the equal of any they have laid their hands on, including the current southern cousin the Bouzy Rouge in Richmond.

This is their last stop on a fabulous journey and the first time I can remember that they are sharing their time north and south.  Before they call ‘Time Gentlemen please’ on it all, I can only advise to head to the NMH, sit at the bar, and take it all in.

Just go.

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