Pub Of The Week: Tony Leonard reviews the Village Belle Hotel
Village Belle Hotel
202 Barkly St, St. Kilda.
When? June 21, 2019
Brilliantly renovated, arguably St. Kilda’s most loved pub, the Village Belle has had plenty spent on a full refurbishment, and with the spirit of Australian TV’s (late night) spruiker Hal Todd, looks good, feels good, is good.
Indeed the many years have past since a last visit and the pub bears no resemblance to what I remember. A wonderful, green garden bar and restaurant for food and drink, retractable roof controlling the weather may have sprung from nowhere.
The Public Bar, with its links to the past of polished tiles and timber with glistening taps offering a great range of beer screams ‘have one here’ before heading to a mix of low and bench seating to eat. The balcony bar takes in Ackland, the Doulton Lounge for something quieter and later completes this excellent set.
And more bouquets to the Village Belle for doing the hard yards with trading Mon-Sun, 9am for 6 of the days, 10am Sunday, and long hours for the kitchen.
Genuinely smart pub grub, ramped up but not overworked, all tastes catered. But the lifeblood of any pub, especially in this neighbourhood, is the tap beer. Plenty to choose from, all well presented.
Sometimes doing a reno can be money misspent; not here. All moving parts going through the gears seamlessly.
Specials throughout the week at $15. Any is a bargain. Express lunch? Good range around $15. A la carte? Belle burger, full whack and an egg is $20. Squid ink linguini, with basically every type of seafood is $30.
- Natural oysters. $20/6. Sydney Rock, served chilled, lemon wedge, fresh, briny. You either love them or not, but like this, it is a case of more please,
- Pork Cutlet, jerusalem artichoke, caramelised apple, spiced carrot puree. $30. This was as good a main tried this year. All flavours worked so well, but one of the harder things to achieve – especially in a pub – is getting the cutlet to the table porperly cooked but moist. Well done,
- Halloumi burger, hash brown, brioche, lettuce, tomato, chips/salad. $18. Fairly priced, good size, plenty of cheese, tad dry, but no problems.
Popular brands aplenty, but well presented, cold Melbourne Bitter pot (5.7) with the lace clinging to the inside, means that the pub cares about its beer.
Wine lists are extensive and have sufficient choice in the 10pg//45 pb. Treid from Great Southern WA was Castle Rock Riesling, and fine drop too. Enjoyed the fact that it was not a join the dots list and if you want to stump up higher, you will be accommodated.
In keeping with the vibe of the pub, the service was bang on. Attentive, Engaging. Not familiar with that IPA? – have a sample. It is the smallest of spoils to the customer but means so much.
Good modern background, mix of Indie and Popular, load of Australian that didn’t intrude at lunch. 8/10.
The Garden Bar is stunning. For sure there are beer gardens but to combine it as well as they have on such a busy thoroughfare in Acland has to be seen to be believed.
An under-considered aspect of pubs is how they present to the wider world. To me, having an up to date website that engages you costs little but is a winner. This pub sells itself in this aspect as good as any other pub in Victoria. Facebook, Twitter for sure for the immediacy, but a good looking website has an all ages appeal.
I wonder how the old bar-flies feel about the change from nooks/crannies of the ’old’ Belle, and what is presented now. The trick of encouraging the new and retaining the old is achieved. No pone feels out of place.
Carefully, I think, it has transformed beautifully. The Village Belle is truly a pub for all seasons.