Pub of the Week: Tony Leonard reviews the Paradise Valley Hotel
Paradise Valley Hotel
249 Belgrave-Gembrook Road, Clematis.
When? April 8, 2022.
Now this is one good looking pub.
At the end of Wellington Road, met by the Belgrave-Gembrook Road, stands the sprawling Paradise Valley Hotel (PVH), aka The paradise, aka The Clemo.
It is drop dead gorgeous from the elongated “Ranch” style gun metal grey facade, through to a traditional front bar (TAB Yes, Pokies No) replete with a pool table whose baize resembles a Violet Crumble wrapper. Looks good.
The beautiful dining room takes in the serenity, with lush gardens to the rear, and a rail line carrying Puffing Billy beyond that. A very private dining room, outdoor decking, verdant garden below to enjoy and socialise with friends.
This pub genuinely fits the tag of Mick Thomas’ old band ‘Weddings, Parties, Anything’.
The PVH is run by the team from the successful North Fitzroy Bistro/Bar/Bottle shop The Recreation, formerly trading as the Homebush Hotel, and since taking over, have effortlessly completed the balancing act of local for the locals, while rewarding visitors with their hospitality who make the trek out here.
By that, if a tradie wants the Porterhouse well-done, then no problem; equally if the same tradie prefers Miso Glazed Cauliflower, black garlic, quinoa, tabbouleh, goji berries, pistachio (yep), then they will find it here.
This pub, when trading just as the Paradise, had one of my favorite hand written signs , which read;
“Jugs will not be served after 4pm Thursdays due to certain troublemakers and you know who you are”. Still love it!!
The Paradise Valley fills a huge void left by the loss of the Ranges Hotel at Gembrook some three years ago. Pubs in the Dandenongs are so accessible, and offer real points of difference.
This beauty is no different.
Take your time to read through the many sections of the menu.
Snacks have the little found (but should be more prevalent) potato cakes, PVH chicken salt, relish, 4 @$12. Fried chicken, aji mayo, for $11. Entrees ramp up with Cheeseburger dumplings (8/$19), Salmon tartare on nori crisp, soy/ginger $19, or Saganaki, hazelnuts, figs, honey lemon dressing $20.
Under the ‘Sandwich’ section, Burgers, Steak sanga are priced early-mid 20s. Mains include BBQ Pork Belly, pineapple glaze, green chilli salsa (38), Fish/Chips (Gurnard fillets $320 or a Duck and Mushroom Pie, fully plated (38). Yes there’s a Parma.
This is smart pub grub, nice touches, elevated beyond the medium.
In keeping with the food offerings, beer and wine extends itself to include a favorite such as Carlton D ($5.5/pot), with indies such as Bentspoke Crankshaft (yep) IPA, Wolf of the Willows, Hop Nation ‘the Heart’ Pale, all available on Tap.
Two pages of wine, all varietals, smaller producers are fairly priced. Mutual Promise Nebbiolo, from Koombahla (20 mins S-E of Geelong) was tried. Most interesting, unusual, (good), tastes. Different.
The average (bistro) prices are;
- Entrees – $18
- Mains – $30 (steaks start from 36, incl fries// sauce)
- Dessert – $14
- Korean Fried cauliflower, sweet/sour sauce. $11. Very, very good. The shell was toffee like, thin and brittle. The flavors given off were indeed sweet and sour and just a hint of crunch from fresh spring onion. Big bowl of cauliflower florets, fair price, it works so well.
- Buffalo fried chicken burger, spicy sauce, blue cheese mayo, lettuce. $22. More two fillets than one piece, again a very good representative of this pub favourite, with the heat of the buffalo sauce enriched by the blue cheese. A fraction longer to make the star of the dish more crisp, but nonetheless all good and devoured easily.
This pub has so much going for it.
Good, traditional front bar that overlooks the T intersection; clean and inviting. (Sat there can confirm the route 695 Cockatoo to Gembrook was on time).
But the dining room is light, airy, welcoming, pretty. (Cop the tip: order near the window in bistro and wait for the iconic Puffing Billy to go by en route to Gembrook). Either/or you will do well.
The Paradise Valley Hotel is rejuvenated, with an eager staff working the floor, great menus. It fits perfectly into that ‘50 minutes-one hour drive from town on a Sunday’ category.
As is anathema to long held beliefs about pubs, this one shines more (to me) in the cooler weather (although so pretty, when warmer would be special).
Or as a friend, Cliff, once opined about Clematis;
“When it’s not raining, it’s dripping off the trees”. Monday, 4 April, 2002. 14 degrees celsius. And it was.