Pub Of The Week: Tony Leonard reviews the Kent Hotel
370 Rathdowne Street, North Carlton
April 13, 2018
3rd Review. (last review circa 2012)
The Kent Hotel is not only a mainstay of the Carlton Pub scene, and by extension Melbourne’s, but for many years a viable alternative to doing fine dining in something other than a restaurant.
The pub is in an enviable position of a having a glamorous location with a great al fresco dining option due to the generous footpath in Curtain, and the beautiful park across the road. On the coldest, wettest day Melbourne can muster, this pub invites.
For many years, the course chartered is one of superior dining in a pub setting. On entering, the front and only bar dominates the 2 inside rooms. Timber is ever present and the tables are bare with heavy salt/pepper shakers only adorning the tables. But service is brought to you cheerily, water on request, and when you see the typed and blackboard menus you get it.
The ever present question is this: Am I in a pub that does better level pub dining, or a restaurant with a lovely bar? And it is fair too, but with a small area to stand around to have one at the bar, the pub can considered thus (although I would like a larger area to congregate).
Yes, you will pay more for food and drink if your barometer is what the local pokies pub charges, but I believe it provides real value.
Above all is its consistency and longevity and at lunch, mid-week, no real reason to be packed, the Kent was. This is a Melbourne pub that has stood the test of time.
The aim is higher with the food and a cursory glance of menus confirms. Here’s some entrees (more lighter meals also) rarely seen together; Cauliflower fritters (5 for $12), Sautéed mixed mushrooms, polenta, soft poached egg, parmesan (24), or Calamari Fritti, green mango, finger line, candied chilli, pepperberry mayo (14/26).
Mains are in mid 30s and a sample is Roast Leg Rump, eggplant, confit tomato, olive jus, (36) to Seared hapuka, preserved lemon + leek risotto, chorizo crust ($38). Desserts homemade to a superior level.
Entrees 16, Mains 34, Desserts 14.
Pan Fried Sardines, chakchouka, chilli. $19. Very Good. Expertly grilled sardines, (3), good sized and meaty, are teamed with an excellent mix tomato, chilli, peppers, onions, that achieve the right balance without overpowering the fish. Still amazes why Sardines are rarely found,
Pork Belly, twice cooked, remoulade, artichoke, fennel. $16. Very Good- Excellent. At the sake of repetition, the 3 elements of outstanding belly are crunch, fat, meat. You must get all 3. The Kent did and the size allows for a good share. Great backing band supported the lead singer – a winner.
Duck Bastilla, slow cooked leg, cinnamon and fruit chutney . $34. Good. Shredded duck meat is encased in a light pastry pie and served with a fruity/sweet sauce. Good cooking – for mine a little dry – but was so palatable. Comes without a salad ($10, green and very good) which is needed for balance.
Nice mix from minimal tap choices and is excellently presented. The pub’s focus is unashamedly food/wine, but the quality of Carlton D (5.5/pot) would satisfy the discerning palate of a wharfie wanting to punch half a dozen into the gullet after a heavy night shift. Wine is priced (by pub standards a little higher (12pg//55/bottle) but one of Victoria’s better and more enduring Rieslings – Christmont, King Valley – is priced at $9/glass and outstanding taste.
SERVICE AND STYLE:
Understated and on point. Staff is knowledgeable, helpful, well presented, friendly. Happy to take you through the specials and offer table service. Would have loved a slice or two of bread for the delightful sauces for mopping, but this part of pub life is well done here.
This is a true stayer of the Melbourne pub scene. No matter who owns this pub, which menu style is preferred by the chef at the time, or whomever is on the floor, the Kent continues to deliver.
For sure the Kent pitches higher in price and intricacy to detail, but the gap between the ever present stock standard and the offer here is minimal.
Never have been a fan of street dining, but like its counterpart in the South – (Montague, Sth Melbourne) – if you have a footpath on beautiful street such as Rathdowne, a park like that (Curtain Square) over the road, it would be foolish not to utilise these to maximum effect.
Another Hall of Fame Melbourne pub – Kent, Carlton North.