Pub Of The Week: Tony Leonard reviews Coopers Inn
282 Exhibition Street, Melbourne.
When? April 27, 2018
2nd Review. (last circa 2009).
A glorious Victorian triple storey pub on the corner of Exhibition and Lt Lonsdale, the Coopers Inn has traded since 1854, and in a show of defiance resembling contestants on Survivor, may continue to ‘outwit, outplay and most importantly outlast’ those genuine few that remain in this game and operate like this.
The pub is deceptively expansive at ground level on entering. Split in 2 at ground level, exposed brick, 2 small bars serving each side, wooden tables and chairs aplenty (with plenty of room to stand on the old style sturdy greyish pattern carpet), you are taken back to a Melbourne (not that long ago) when these pubs that looked almost identical to this, dominated most corners.
Small discreet TAB (no Pokies) to the side really works well along with a range of Sports provided by Fox attracts plenty.
Two other levels for functions – Bluestone and Heritage rooms for functions (used for recent Comedy Festival), dining, weddings etc, and the total package is a winner.
Food menu is kept to a minimum, and here is where the pub understands that a fully plated, prepared from scratch main at a reasonable price must be offered to complete with the competition surrounding it. It is good pub grub.
Also love the fact that the pub now trades on Saturday from 11am till late. To do this is an absolute risk but appears to be a winner given the amount of people wanting to sample on this day.
The Coopers Inn, with its straightforward approach to pub life, is a beauty.
Short, sweet, pub favorites, and you don’t have to overthink it. The plates are generous, the salads are fresh and not drowning – just waving – with the right amount of a simple vinaigrette. Some wings and calamari are the starters; 5 burgers, pub favs, (couple of steaks, chicken, fish), make up the mains and rounded out are 2 or 3 desserts.
Indeed the only notable standout from theses mains is Nasi Goreng (yes – fried rice, pickled veg, egg sambal manis – $16). C’mon which baby boomer’s house didn’t have have a copy of Charmaine Solomon’s brilliant writings of the 70s adorning the kitchen?!.
There are some daily specials e.g., Lamb shank, tomato, vegetables, garlic infused mash ($25), but pretty much on offer is the standard menu (Autumn one soon to be introduced) on the web.
Entrees 14, Mains 23, Desserts 12.
Spicy deep fried chicken wings, coated in herbs & spices, served with blue cheese dipping sauce (6/12 piece) $8/14. Good. Ever present on pub menus, these are never fail when done well. Spice, meat, sauce all add up to a nice start.
Grilled Barramundi marinated with garlic & chilli, served with steak fries, aioli sauce & lemon wedge. $24, Very Good. Three grilled fillets, well seasoned, generous size, neat salad. This is the execution, at the right price, of a decent meal of pub fish and chips. I have said it recently and happy to reiterate, the standard of Barra in pubs has improved leaps and bounds.
Sticky date pudding, vanilla ice cream, strawberries, chocolate sauce – $12.5. Good. Two wedges of soft sponge, lovely sweet sauce and the intense strawberry gel added up to a pub fav finisher.
Carlton, (5.5/pot) Coopers, 4 pines, Goose (Chicago) IPA, (7/pot), Mercury Cider. Beer handled properly, served very well.
The pub has its CD delivered in tanks and the fresh, unadulterated taste is top notch. They offer beer in a 200ml glass, confirming old school status.
Wine list runs to a corporate formula with established brands priced to the benchmark. Also on tap offerings of Cape Schanck Pinot G, and Squealing Pig S/B. $10/glass. These are popular brands to suit and again, this is the mark there and elsewhere in the CBD.
SERVICE AND STYLE:
Owner/operator knowing that anyone who walks through the door has to be caught first time. Owner (Matt O’Kane) has a long history in pubs (taught by the Lewis family at the Emerald, Sth Melbourne) so the value of hands on, meet and greet is invaluable.
This pub is run on genuinely traditional lines and effective, uncomplicated service. Only issue – minor – was the volume of the background music. To all people in hospitality, remember the time of day and who the clientele is.
The quote ‘Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be’ is attributed to one of the most famous New York Yankees Yogi Bera. But a cursory through the CBD of Melbourne and the amount of free standing Pubs, not Bars nor a hybrid becomes an endangered species every passing year.
Count them: Do we have 10 genuine pubs left from Spencer to Spring, Latrobe to Flinders?
(A nod to Sydney here – they adore and retain their old pubs).
So when you have a pub like Coppers that has sailed a well chartered excellent course for years, they are to be cherished. A pub like this is multi faced; it is a pot and a parma at lunch, hosts comedy upstairs and can accomodate 50 plus for a get together. Now opening Saturday – a massive gamble – has seen it open its doors for Sports lovers to partake all Pay tv offerings for nicks, or be an option for a Saturday night in town at a pub.
No bells/whistles; it is not needed here. The Coopers Inn continues to serve us so well.