Pub Of The Week: Tony Leonard reviews the Essendon Hotel
Where? 914-918 Mt Alexander Road, Essendon.
When? November 26, 2021.
Emerging from the much loved O’Sullivans Sibeen some two or so years ago, the Essendon Hotel quickly hit its stride and in spite of lockdown over the past 18 months, trades very well in doing a better level of food and bev without the addition of TAB/pokies to support the bottom line.
Canny operators from Shepparton pounced on this site (not on a corner) and after some time of inactivity (closed after a previous sale) set about presenting a different offer than just running to a formula.
Essentially one long rectangular space, brickwork exposed and looking sharp, the Essendon has one continuous bar serving two areas – one mainly for drinking and socialising and the other for bistro dining. For sure enough space to stand and have one with a gathering, but also with ample seating for intimate dining and functions.
There are some neat, tucked away spaces and with an eager staff working the room the package that the Essendon offers stands up nicely.
Food and drink lists menus are informative and demand you read them completely for fear of missing something! Prices are about what is expected in a pub and the quality is there.
And the pub sets itself out to be the “Cocktail Pub” with an kaleidoscopic array of colours and flavours so it is easy to see how and why it has an all ages appeal.
Put together a confident package of hospitality to end the Pub of the week segment for the year.
The Essendon kicks off with a stack of interesting entrees. Pork Bao Buns, asian pickles, BBQ sauce; Mushroom Arancini w/Goats Cheese and Truffle foam; Cheeseburger Spring Rolls are a different take on standard pub entrees.
Same deal with Mains. Beef Short Rib, mash, Dutch carrots, jus (30); Ocean Trout, baby veg, pea puree (29), or Tofu, Beans, Veg Curry w/rice, pappadams (25) sit along pubs favs like Parma (24), or Flathead n Chips w/ salad, tartare (22).
Both beer and wine are happy to tread a different path. While Carlton was not on tap, different craft were and Byron Bay Lager (6/pot) had clearly been cared for. Good, clean taste. Around 10 reds/white were offered, at least half by the glass (good). Printhe PG, JJ Hahn Merlot were chosen and at 10/11 pg are fairly priced.
And for the Cocktails? Choose from the 35 or so, all with their own signature names.
The average (bistro) prices are;
- Entrees – $15
- Mains – $27
- Dessert – $16
- Pan Seared Scallops, seaweed, beetroot relish (3/17)// Grilled Prawns (5 skewers), chilli, garlic, herbs. $17. Both fine starters: the shellfish perfectly cooked, the supporting flavours working well,
- Wagyu Burger, chips. 21. Very good example of a pub burger, priced right. Milk bun, bacon, cheese, tomato, pickles, with 2 medium sized patties and the sweet, distinctive flavour of the beef obvious. Happy to go again,
- Chicken Saltimbocca. $30. Very Generous serve, fine prosciutto, slightly let down by the chicken being a tad dry and the charred greens were limited to Brussel Sprouts.
The Essendon Hotel, basically from the get-go, has set out to be different in all elements of its hospitality offer.
Simply put, the pub works, and evidence of this is confirmed with the amount of people wanting to sample. With the newly opened Ascot Vale and new ownership at the Laurel (both pubs of the week 2021), the not quite inner North West has some good pub options.
Amusingly (at least to me), was the conversation about ordering a beer; my default position being Carlton as it is the most common to compare and contrast.
‘We don’t have Carlton here, but we have Essendon Draught. It just the same!”, said the enthusiastic crew member. “No, it’s not” I said, eliciting a look that I had curtailed the life of Lassie, Bambi, Simba and R2D2. But the alternative was fine.
Well done to the Essendon, and indeed to those in all manner of hospitality but especially Pubs for maintaining the line in such tough times.
More than ever, given the life changing circumstances confronted, the importance of you’re local has never been greater.