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Pub of the Week review: North Britain Hotel, Ballarat

Tony Leonard

Pub: North Britain Hotel
Where: 502 Doveton St., Soldiers Hill
Phone: 5331 1291
Score: 14/20
When: 19 May 2017
Website: www.ballarat.com

VENUE

First review.   ( ** easiest way to learn about the North Britain is to google name and go through aforementioned web address.

In the historic suburb of Soldiers Hill, north of the centre of Ballarat, is the beautiful history rich North Britain Hotel. Even with a passing knowledge of the 1850s and the significance that Ballarat has in Australian life, once you see the pub, you are transported back to that time.

Proudly proclaiming itself as a “small pub in Ballarat”, the inside  not quite Lilliputian but certainly compact, is replete with lead light windows, antiques, prints and the lowest lighting inside a pub I can recall.

The mood is brilliantly stuck at 6pm;  never midday!!

Small front bar to ‘has’  one, with a delightful dining room parallel to the bar (tables dressed with butchers paper, then cloth), you sit down and receive something quaint and forgotten – service. To the rear, is a mid sized beer garden, and a number of passageways run from the 2 main rooms for a private dinner/function.

Think a fair dinkum English tavern and that’s it here. No TAB/No Pokies.

Unless you are flint hearted, it is impossible to dislike the North Britain Hotel.

MENU

This is honest pub grub favorites, prices varying for a main from $18.90 to $44 (large eye fillet, full whack).  The menu, befitting its heritage is presented in an old english calligraphy.  It is not extensive with 6 entrees, say 10 mains and some desserts.  Entrees include some variations on shellfish, while a main has the old – Lambs fry, bacon, onion, gravy mash ($24) to the new – Pumpkin and Chickpea Tagine, saffron rice, labne – $25. The NBH claims to have the best Chicken parma ($26.9) in country Victoria with its secret pama sauce. The burger – $18.9 –  is a taut,  good sized pattie, with neat toppings.

Entrees $14,  Mains $26, Desserts $14

TRIED

Saganaki, w/fig jam.  $15.9.  Good. Quite a decent sized triangle of cheese arrives with an interesting pairing of figs (split) and their juices. Cheese is cooked right – a little brownish on top with a bit of give underneath – and the fruit works well,

Crumbed snags with mash, veg, gravy. $18.9. Good.  From the lunch specials menu, 2 massive crumbed pork tubes are a treat (Harbour Butchers do the meat and have a fine reputation).  The plate is overflowing with the veg, mash and cheesey broccoli are fine; the beans and carrot overdone.  This is pub grub 101, delivered at the right price,

Homemade sticky date, butterscotch sauce, ice cream. $14.9. Good. The pudding is light and moist, the sauce is gloriously dense, the ice cream rich.  It’s cold outside: You want one?!!

DRINK

Two commercial taps supported here – Carlton D and Coopers (with the various off shoots of pale/sparkling). Well presented and a good taste.  The wine list is a gathering of personal favourites, local offerings, e.g., One Goat shiraz, with a few from Tasmania and SA.  Always reliable St Annes wine is the house provider. Around $8.5/glass, and tried was Red Lantern cab/sav from nearby Avoca. All good.

SERVICE AND STYLE

Personal, friendly. This is a husband/wife team who have been here around 15 years and all the lovely understated touches create a warmth that immediately puts you at ease. A delightful country pub.

SUMMARY

The NBH is simply drop dead gorgeous. All the touches scream ye olde, and the feel is one of  family friendly in a pub that conjures up imagery of the goldfields of the 1850s rather than anything in the 20th or 21st century.

Whether it is an advantage to be set this distance away from the main drag of Ballarat can only be answered by the owners, but if it is comfort and community or just a place to be reclusive, it is hard to imagine a more delightful pub in the surrounding districts to achieve this.

And judging by the locals in the front bar, clearly a loyal clientele is well established. Given its long history  closing in on 150 years, it is well worth the read about the early days of the NBH.

Good pub tucker, good beer, good pub. An enjoyable day at the North Britain Hotel.

Tony Leonard
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