Pub Of The Week: Tony Leonard reviews the Maori Chief Hotel
Maori Chief Hotel
117 Moray Street, South Melbourne.
June 23, 2018
2nd Review. (last circa 2012)
If it is possible to be remote in South Melbourne, then this wonderful sesquicentennial (busting to use the fancy 150 years term) pub – Maori Chief – is all of that.
Wedged between Clarendon and Kings Way, almost in the shadow of the gargantuan Crown complex, the Maori Chief, with its faded two toned cream/reddish facade doesn’t look much, but the surprise is definitely inside.
On entering you witness small; but somehow with a pool table wedged in, the MC provides that old school pub welcome whereby there might only be 10 or so in there, because of the intimacy, you feel as if there is something already happening.
Yes they love all Sport – All Blacks/Rugby prominent – but as a place of difference to catch up in town for any reason, then this should be a go-to. (Bookings open for Bledisloe Cup on 18/8).
Front Bar, small private lounge (wish there was a bar in there) and through to the dining room, all dark and timber with a gorgeous fireplace, you settle in and and enjoy excellent pub grub at very reasonable prices. Nothing overly tricked up, but just good food.
No TAB/No Pokies. Free pool Tuesdays, music wednesdays, meals deals and lunch specials, makes an offer difficult to pass over if you are a local.
A small first floor beer garden looks back at the city and in summer would operate perfectly and that’s the pub. In keeping with the name, there is a range of NZ beers, supported by local commercial and craft taps. Not over done, but something to please palates.
A wonderful secret in Melbourne’s pub life.
Great old school menu featuring pub favorites but with a few surprises such as Lentil Shepherds Pie, tomato kasundi (17) or a paella, full whack for $25.
Not really doing a stack of entrees (below however there are ripping Spring Rolls), but the pricing of the burgers, pizza, steaks, parmas are very fair by current comparison. . Barramundi represents the fish (unless there is a special offer) and a carbonara will pop up as $10 special on Mondays.
There are real bargains daily.
Entrees/Shares not really Mains 23, Desserts 10.
Homemade spring rolls, 3 for $10. Very Good. Direct from the kitchen, one each of Prawn, Pork, Thai Chicken were jammed packed and had a superior taste. Mint, lettuce chilli dipper even better. There are times when you know they are not imported in from a 3rd party – this was one of them.
Chilli Parma. $15/special. Very Good. Crushed chilli, jalapeno, sliced bullet chilli, provide a belter of a hummmmm, but importantly doesn’t overwhelm the excellent chicken. This was a bargain at any price and for once, lived up to a claim that it has a real kick,
Pork snags (2 split), mash, peas and onion gravy. $21. Good. I can’t say why snags, in a pub, done well, taste superior to anywhere else. But they, and these did. Glorious.
Carlton D, Speights are but a couple of tap offering, with Steinlager, Monteiths, Stone and Wood providing an excellent range of bottles.
Wine list is limited to around 8 reds/whites, but a good bottle is secured unders to the median around 38/bottle or 8.5/pg. Ring Master riesling from the Clare valley eas chosen, very good and fairly priced.
SERVICE AND STYLE:
Nothing was too much trouble with owner/operator expertise of 10 years, with excellent front of house (Stacey), the joint was jumping on a cold Thursday lunchtime. Bring a beer to the table – yep – clear plates if finished – yep, and the trick to this was not feeling hurried but someone being attentive enough to know that it’s lunch and time may be tight. Good stuff.
The Maori Chief holds its own in an area replete with choice to grab your leisure dollar.
Different offer for sure is the new and revitalised Bells Hotel but a Tony Shaw torpedo away. Clarendon street with all manner of cuisine (and pubs) is just up the hill, but the MC punches above its weight and holds its own.
In trying to pinpoint why I feel it is better 6 years on, (and was good then) I can only put it down to the happy atmosphere in the pub, appreciating more its secretive location, and the fact there are few like this left in Melbourne.
So here’s the challenge: organise a group to meet up there but be a fraction late and gauge the reaction. The look of the pub sends out a….’you gotta be joking’ which will soon turn when inside….’what a beauty’.