Pub Of The Week: Tony Leonard reviews the Railway Hotel, Brunswick
The Railway Hotel
291 Albert Street, Brunswick.
When? May 27, 2022.
The beautiful old world Railway Hotel stood (and looked) abandoned in Albert Street for at least six years and seemed destined to be knocked over into a clutch of units.
Enter a group of fine hospitality providers from much loved venues as The Boatbuiders Yard, Riverland to name but a couple, team up with a high profile, but down to earth personality like Mick Molloy and then set about the task of renovating this 3-4 storey beast From the Floorboards Up. (Thanks Paul W).
One area complete and I hate to think what it has set them back, but that’s a stack of pots and chicken snittys to get close. But how wonderful it is. In time, the upper floors will receive due attention.
Entering from Albert St, the Front Bar (once horse stables) is a hive of activity with a long brick bar, heavy high beams dominating.
To the left a most modern dining room, fireplace belting along and table service provided. The extremities house the Corner Bar (late night music/gathering) and to the left a fine beer footpath/garden sits parallel to the Brunswick Station. Open, airy, functional: you move from space to space effortlessly.
The pub doesn’t trade (at this stage) Monday-Tuesday, and opens at 4pm Wednesday-Thursday, but trades early into the morning on weekends. No TAB/No Pokies.
Menus are set apart from Bar and Dining room, but with pub grub treated reverentially and other modern dishes show genuine flair, the Railway has a stack going for it.
The difficult task of blending old school hospitality with a brand spanking youthful offer is effortlessly achieved here.
And seek out one of the managers/owners and get some history on this pub. There are some extraordinary tales to tell. It’s worth the trip.
Menu is divided into two: Bar/Dining Room, with the latter focusing on Middle eastern flavours befitting its neighbourhood. (there is some crossover of items).
While there is commonality of some excellent starters, e.g., Leek croquettes, tahini, walnut & date molasses (16) or Butterflied prawns, fenugreek & anchovy butter (28), the differences occur in the mains.
The bar menu offers Chicken schnitzel, slaw, salsa verde, fries (26) or Wagyu cheeseburger, lettuce, pickles, fries (24); the Middle eastern influenced Dining room has Celeriac shawarma, pitta, pickled veg, hummus (24) through to its showstopper share, Spiced lamb shoulder, sweet & sour mint (52).
Beer is well served with Carlton D ($7/pot, hmmmm), to craft favourites Mountain Goat Steam Ale, or Bodriggy ‘off the rails ‘Draught. Smart business here too with a selection of Zero/Low alcohol beers.
More power to the selection of different, lesser known producers/varietals e.g Chalmers “Falanghina” (Heathcote) or Patch “Barbera” (King Valley). Average price is $14pg//$65/btle. Tried was the excellent Mac Forbes Riesling (14), and the equally fine Bellingham Estate Pinot Noir.
The average (bistro) prices are;
- Entrees – $16
- Mains – $28 (steaks from 37)
- Dessert – $13
- Barramundi Crudo, Pickled carrots, pepperoncini. $19// Crispy Sumac Squid, Preserved lemon aioli. $18. Both were excellent starters, the raw barramundi was fresh, plentiful, tasty and supported by the pool of juices//spicy jumble of squid, again with a fine, sharp aioli.
- Swordfish cutlet, orange chermoula. $32. Well presented, cooked medium (bit less would have enhanced but no problems), flavour shines through but doesn’t overpower.
- Rotisserie 1/2 chicken, garlic, preserved lemon. $24. One of the best, most generous plates of food this year. Big pieces of moist chicken, lemon/garlic elevate the chook, a fine classic.
Note: Food was great but comes rather naked on plate and needs sides which bring an additional cost. Remember, this is a pub and part of the (unwritten) deal remains a fully plated meal.
There was a time years ago that a pub would have an eponymous second reference that if you mentioned the pub’s proper name e.g., Victoria Hotel Footscray it may not register: if you referred to it as Harts, automatically the lightbulb moment occurred.
So in that delightful throwback, the Railway Hotel Brunswick is known as Mick Molloy’s Pub, a name that was born to be its second reference. (Fictitious as it is “Tipsy Mc Staggers Tavern” from the Simpsons remains the clubhouse leader).
What has been achieved here is a monstrous leap of faith from clever people in hospitality to take on this derelict pub and make it into something very special. Pitched right to suit the veteran Brunswick pub goer, while attracting new chums to go back to a pub and socialise and enjoy.
If the aim was to achieve a fully functional, traditional pub in Brunswick then the new team at the Railway has achieved this in spades.