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Pub of the Week review: Brandon Hotel, Carlton North

TONY LEONARD

Pub: Brandon Hotel
Where: 237 Station St, Carlton North
Phone: 9347 2382
Score: 15/20
When: 2 June 2017
Internet: www.brandonhotel.com.au

VENUE:

Third review. (DeBortoli pub of the year 2005, second review around 2011).

The Brandon, in sort of out of the way Station St Carlton North, remains steadfastly faithful to the almost extinct ‘local watering hole’. This is a beautiful brick corner pub in a relatively secluded part of Melbourne, but easy to get to, park, and enjoy. (Back of the San Remo ballroom is the easiest landmark) Small bar is the centrepiece to an old style front bar, old grey carpet with raised wooden tables to sit at and dine; behind the bar is a very large, delightfully dimly lit, dining room and beyond a small covert courtyard to the rear.

Chalkboards abound detailing all manner of food and drink and why more pubs don’t have these as a “come on” amazes. Done properly, it is a case of..”I want that, I want that etc etc.

No TAB/No pokies, but good old fashioned (bordering on kitsch) board games such as Balderdash or Trivial P when the conversation runs out and this is a pub that is genuinely interested in the community.

Most nights there is a meal deal of a fine main and a drink for $15-20, live entertainment, but all with a layer of comfort and security that only a pub like this can provide.

Sit back and relax, this is a pub that is firing.

MENU:

I know I use the expression ‘smart’ pub grub, but when a pub takes a basic staple and then does a neat trick to it for a ‘wow’ moment, then this is what the Brandon does.

There is a charcuterie board for those looking for a graze of superior meats and cheese which the pub is happy to mix and match with an item from its ‘tapas’ selection.

Smaller plates around the $12-16 mark of say, mac and cheese with smoked paprika or braised ham hock meatballs, tomato sugo and grilled bread. Mains carry the traditional items of full whack burger – $19.5, or chicken parma – $22. Black bean and zucchini tacos, pasta specials or a blackboard special of Pork Scotch fillet, duck fat spuds, braised apple and crackling (30), then be assured the kitchen is well, clever.

Sunday roast is $20 with music from 230pm, and lovely drink specials, what a way to have a lazy sunday.

You have been advised!

Entrees $13, Mains $26, Desserts $14

TRIED:

Arancini. 3 balls for $13. Porcini and Blue cheese. Very Good. Rotating special, today’s offer was large and generous. Fabulous rich aioli supported the golden rice balls. Along with croquettes, these make the great start to a pub meal.

Spicy Chicken Wings. $11. (7). Good. 3 immutable laws for this popular starter; Hot, spicy and above all, have plenty of meat on the wings. What they don’t need is to be drowned in a sticky sauce. Again a well executed entree.

Rabbit Pie with veg, mash, peas, jus. $28. Good. On the specials board, a homemade pie, fully encased is packed with bunny and veg, the mash and peas are wonderful and the dark, rich, salty juices at the bottom are gloriously decadent. Curious reaction to rabbit: no middle ground. Either you love it – I do, or never to pass my lips – Neil Mitchell. Sorry Neil, this time, you’re wrong!!

DRINK:

Wide range of beers – Carlton D in 200ml glass (old school 101), along with smaller brands such as Lazy Boy pale. Coldstream cider – popular – is there too. Different, smaller wine list, $8/glass// 38/bottle is under the benchmark pricing in 2017. Good. The Victorian, a riesling from the Plunkett Fowles group (Ladies who shoot their lunch, Are you Game?) was wonderful.

SERVICE AND STYLE:

Good. There is never any issue with the food and drink, but last time there, I found it too impersonal. Not this time. Happy to chat, talk about the pub, how it’s going etc., is why people go there. Firing on all cylinders. An absolute tick is the pub opens midday – as earlier in the week up to Thursday, smaller pubs trade later from 3pm. Not here. (Also the pub does Joker Poker – $2200 to be clawed as at 2/6 and not many cards to be turned over – FRIDAY NIGHTS – FREE TIP!!).

SUMMARY:

It’s easy to become nostalgic about old fashioned pubs/publicans and with the suburbs spreading ever further, your own local – and that’s the way the pub is looked at – becomes a rarer beast. It is the bond that a smaller, more intimate pub provides and great times are more easily recalled.

The Brandon is all of that: cosy, inviting, hospitable with points of difference that only a pub like this can offer. The metaphoric welcome mat is personalised, rather than homogonised.

This year, three smaller pubs ram this home; Leinster Arms, Collingwood, Royal Standard, West Melbourne, and the Brandon. They are all terrific, unassuming locals, but with so many of these beauties closing in 2016/7 such as Great Western in King st, PA’s in Grattan st and Royal in Clifton Hill to name but a few, then those left standing to trade like this are to be cherished.

Find the Brandon, go for a few hours and you’ll get it. It’s worth the trip.

TONY LEONARD
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