Pub Of The Week: Tony Leonard reviews the Munster Arms Hotel in Ballarat
PUB: Munster Arms Hotel
WHERE? 10 Victoria St., Bakery Hill, Ballarat
PHONE: 5332 2323
WHEN? 3 November 2017
This is my first review.
On the descent into Ballarat, a heartbeat from turning into Sturt, is the drop dead gorgeous oh so quaint Munster Arms (TMA) Hotel (formerly known as the Battlers Tav).
A genuine relic of the historic past – Eureka flag flying atop the adjacent motel – TMA is essentially a long rectangular room, split over four smallish levels that combines bar/lounge/dining/kitchen area, banging out really interesting food that doesn’t conform to the norm of just reinventing pub grub.
Warm pastel painted walls, lovely large wooden tables with excellent cutlery and napery, the points of difference are obvious on entering. Any historical references through bric a brac is minimal.
Together with a different approach to its tap beer – international taps save for one local craft, the new owners are challenging locals to ‘try different’ in the familiar surroundings of a local pub. The wine list too is different with an unashamed preference for locals and nearby.
No TAB/No pokies. For no other reason, barracking for its success for daring to be different is one (of many) why you’ll like this pub.
There was a service issue – explained below – that I hope was aberrant rather than the norm. The Munster Arms has too good an offer to be overlooked on this easily remedied misstep.
Split into smalls, mediums, shares and large, the effort going into providing this comes at a slightly higher “pub” price, but when a share of Oxtail Spring Rolls (2 for $15) w/oxtail sauced or Pork Meatballs, sour cherry sauce (6 small for $8), if nothing else you are going to read the whole menu. Orange and Cardamon Duck Pie, or Charred Pickled Pear salad (with as many add-ons as played in the legendary Earth wind Fire), then the idea of moving away from a parma for one day appeals. (As sacrilegious as that may seem).
Different and curious sounding add-ons are explained on the menu. Tip: order the bacon jam as an extra (4). It is a beauty.
An interesting range of share plates are available if you are in for a graze.
Entrees 14, mains 30 desserts 14.
Pork meatballs, sour cherry sauce. $8. Good. 2 balls per stick (3) arrive in a little pot, smallish, tasty, with a good dollop of cherry at the base. Neat start,
Sweet potato chips, whipped feta, sumac, oregano. $11. Very good. Clever – and filling starter. Crispy sweet potato atop of this creamy, spicy cheese was a treat as you dip, lick, dip again,
Black sesame seed tuna, sweet potato chips, asian salad. $30. Very Good. Beautiful rectangle of medium rare tuna, loved the sesame crust, great, fresh innovative support cast, this was value shopping for the price.
Roast pork fillet & soy caramel sauce, served with carrot & cumin puree: cabbage, fennel, apple & pancetta braise. $29. Excellent. Just reading it begged the question as to how it would come together; first taste totally won you.
Moon Dog Mack Daddy is the only branded local otherwise it is international all the way, headed up by Sierra Nevada Pale. There is an eponymous lager which was fine. Glassware was Ok, but beer tended to go a little flat too quickly. Easily fixed. Loved the support of the local wines, with an outrageously fair price for the wonderful Best’s Riesling (40/bottle) or Blue Pyrenees chard at $8/glass.
Very fair shopping.
SERVICE AND STYLE
Family run and unfailingly pleasant. But there was an issue with the service. It was packed so more fair play to them. But waiting 20 minutes to grab anyone’s attention and then menu is something that needs to be righted. Then another 25-30 minutes for entree. Whether it was ‘one of those days’, or ‘someone failing to turn up’ or demand stretched resources, it is something that the TMA needs to be aware of.
The pub is too good to let something within its control bring the offer down. And given a steely determination to make the pub work, I suspect it will. Pronto.
The Munsters Arms is well worth the drive if you admire people having a crack in hospitality and daring to be different. If nothing else, go the website and have a read about the pub, and its offer. It reads so well.
I sincerely hope success attends the owners here and speaking to them, it seems it has been a battle up to the last month or so, and now more Ballarat locals are supporting it. And as evidenced by the numbers in for Sunday lunch, more and more are spreading the word.
Munsters Arms is an excellent addition to the Ballarat pub scene.