Pub of the Week: Tony Leonard reviews the Hardiman’s Hotel in Kensington
The Hardiman’s Hotel
521 Macaulay Road, Kensington
When? 19 October 2018
Totally revamped, new management. This is my first review.
On entering this odd shaped hotel on Macauley Road, (think equilateral triangle and realise why you failed maths) up the hill from Kensington station, you genuinely do a second take. Surely this can’t be Hardiman’s, replete with ancient clutter and lack of any relationship with ergonomics.
So you walk out and look back at the white/sandy art-deco double storey exterior, the front of the pub meeting at an angle, and go in and be amazed at what has taken place.
Hardiman’s was, in another century, a bad, bad pub where some of the toughest (to be later seen in Underbelly) would gather. Cyclone wire covered windows. It was revived and operated as a nice old some 20 years ago, prior to the wave of gentrification of the inner north.
And to now. Walls knocked down, new everything inside (all shimmering and white) with a glorious front front bar as centrepiece, and a stonkingly great beer garden/backyard.
Food is modern pub grub 101 – from nice tricks to old favorites. The beer on tap reflects the changing tastes of Melburnians, who want change.
What is to be applauded is how well thought out the changes have been made. Family gathering yes; an afternoon listening to music/DJ while having a Sunday session you will be comfortable. Indeed, any time.
The rebirth of Hardiman’s has commenced and good times set to roll.
Let’s have a look at some starters. Cajun prawn tortillas, roasted corn, avo, chill, lime ($2 for 12), Popcorn Chicken, popcorn salt (yep), habanero ($12). Vegan options, Pizzas fill the share/starters list. They are going that bit further.
Some burgers ($21), mains including free range parma, chips/slaw ($24) or something different BBQ Brisket, Honey/chilli glaze housemade carrot and radish kimchi, soy caramel ($26). A mere sample of a pub trying to go different.
Entrees: $12. Mains $24. Desserts: $12
Asian flavoured pork belly and prawn sausage rolls. $12. OK. Enjoyed the combination, good whack of them, big size, presented with the pastry cooked well. A little bland for my palate, but nonetheless a good start.
Scallop and Barramundi Spring Rolls, nam jim for $13. Good. The trick here is getting the balance with the Nam Jim. The pub does: it works a treat with the fresh seafood contained therein and a plate of 6 is very generous.
Pork Schnitzel, slaw, chips – $23. Good. Old style pub food, big plate with two schnitzels, well coated with excellent chips and a slaw that needed less mayo.
The pub loves its craft. No big hitting commercial brands but new favorites like Stomping Ground, Laneway Lager (tried and all good), Fury and Son, Boatrocker and available on tap, starting at $6/pot, and served 3 sizes.
There is no spoil on the wine list with ($12/60) closer to the average. At this price tried was Even Keel PG from Mornington Peninsula and most enjoyable from a well thought out list but be prepared to pony up for the grape.
SERVICE AND STYLE:
For sure a little on the inexperienced side – maybe first gig behind the jump – but the enthusiasm to make things as pleasant as possible was in spades. Suspect it may get a little hectic on weekends so a bring some patience with you. The end result is worth it.
You can only guess what has been spent on the modernising of this pub.
While any of us curiously assess claims by a pub (indeed any business) on their homepages, I must agree that the excellent refit has not taken away the essence that Hardiman’s heartbeat is that of an inner suburban pub.
All aspects of the hotel – food, drink, vibe – reflect a 2018 vision of Melbourne pub life, backed up by a glorious beer backyard. If you have been before, it is well worth checking out again.
No doubt at all, this pub will be a great summer gathering place for the North and West, and the offer, in a further 12 months will be better again.
Photo: Hardimans Hotel / Instagram