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REVEALED! 3AW’s Pub Of The Year for 2021

Neil Mitchell
Article image for REVEALED! 3AW’s Pub Of The Year for 2021

3AW/DeBortoli Pub of the Year 2021

December 3, 2021 

Another year for the DeBortoli Pub of the Week (31st year) is completed, and while many in Victoria’s outstanding hospitality community thought 2020 would never be replicated due to COVID, sadly, it seems, the difficulties in 2021 have gone to another level.

Given that pubs trade seven days a week in most instances, Melbourne has lost 262 days (regional marginally less) to lockdown and as a natural consequence, businesses have either gone to dust or many, especially in hospitality, have walked away for good.

Added to this is when trading has resumed, restrictions on numbers curtailed the bottom-line.

In spite of all of this, our cherished pubs in Victoria have shown stoic resilience to everything that they have confronted.

Through outstanding diligence in adherence to protocols, we have returned in number and as a reminder, pubs are seen now as more than somewhere to have a beer.

They are a vital part of the community.

To those who have been able to stay the course, it is hoped that there is a bumper 2022 awaiting.

Simply put in Victoria, we have an outstanding group of operators, working tirelessly to service us, the customer.

To everyone that contacted me via email and gave suggestions/comments, many thanks again.

Before announcing this year’s DeBortoli Best Pub, some comments… 

OVERVIEW OF 2021

A total of 24 pubs were visited, 16 for the first time//totally revamped since a last visit. (This is a total of 40 pubs over the past 2 years, about half as many that would be reviewed).  Pleased to say all were good.

The split between Melbourne metro and regional pubs was 18/6, travel restrictions impacting heavily.

Some general (and gratuitous) observations to pubs;

  • Your social media platforms remain your best, and most immediate form of contact. Still too much irrelevant stuff clogging important info. Sample some other pubs’ webpages, Twitter/Facebook/Insta; guaranteed those who are sharp in this area are doing well.
  • If you are using photos, please look at them before publishing. Beer glasses especially; if the picture tells a story, then there’s a stack of pubs I wouldn’t drink at based on what is displayed.
  • Please keep pricing on meals up to date on your website.
  • I’ll repeat this from last year. From a customer’s viewpoint, a genuine frustration is the wrong info on third-party websites, e.g., opening times, posted menus, reviews of 2017 that subsequently bear no resemblance to what pubs are doing four years later. Surely these inaccuracies are easily remedied. It is up to businesses to drive this. Go to Zomato/Tripadvisor etc., and fix it up,
  • Standard of the presentation of beer is better, please keep it up,
  • And yes, I sound like an old man yelling at clouds, but why you wouldn’t have one tap of the most commercially drunk beer available confuses. But, your show, your rules.

HIGHLIGHTS 

THE LOOK

Panton Hill Hotel. One of the top three pubs for the year. The bar is a cross between a beer library and somewhere that Bruce Wayne may have one before tackling The Joker in Gotham City. Good look.

THE DIFFERENT

Easy. Batesford Hotel. Just different. If you wish to combine a fine pub day and a wedding, this is one stop shopping. Beautiful grounds.

A close second is the Table Tennis table at the Edinburgh Castle in Brunswick.  Third is the Edinburgh Castle; a table for two cut into the brickwork.

BEST BEER

Carlton Draught:  Three pubs deserve acknowledgement.  In spite of the fact that the Town Hall Hotel Fitzroy does everything well, its Draught confirms that it is a pub first and foremost.

Very nice work at the Royal in Koo Wee Rup and North Port Hotel, Port Melbourne. Clean, refreshing and the glasses look spectacular while drinking.

Craft: Byron Bay Lager.  Essendon Hotel. Very nicely presented.

MOST ENJOYABLE MAIN/ENTREE

MAIN: North Port Hotel. Lunch special. Sirloin, bearnaise, fries, rocket/parmesan salad.  Lunchtime special, great quality, outstanding value. Normally $30, charged $20. Hoping it, or something like this, returns as a special in 2022.

ENTREE:  Ascot Vale Hotel Dim Sims. yep, they look and taste like the ones from South Melbourne market//North Port Sausage rolls w/ currywurst ketchup. Go on, just one more bite!!

WINE: Albion Hotel Kyneton. The offer of Knights Granite Hill Riesling. $42/btle.  Astonishingly fair price for one of Victoria’s most bankable wines – any colour.

My best 3 pubs for 2021 are (I exclude Town Hall Fitzroy – previous winner in past 5 years and Robert Burns, great pub but has just changed hands and name – now the Hotel Collingwood).

All three of the following pubs scored 15 points…

North Port Hotel

Taking the reins over at such a beloved pub, formerly trading as the Albion, could  have proved a step too far. Changed name, smart young operators, keep the community connect up. They have succeeded. In spades.

Panton Hill Hotel

Relatively new operators have done an amazing job here. Inside the pub is fabulous old world; outside the multi layered decking takes in the views of the mountains (ah the serenity) with a stack of entertainment to keep patrons returning.

The Albion, Kyneton

Beautiful looking pub, great offer at all levels, wonderful young staff, the Albion is a beauty in the very competitive market in Kyneton.

The above three pubs are wonderful. To every pub this year that was visited, thank you for the hospitality.

TONY LEONARD’S PUB OF THE YEAR FOR 2021

North Port Hotel
Evans Street, Port Melbourne.

As facile as this may sound, it’s just a great pub.

There’s a fairness in the offer, generosity of spirit in hospitality, and a community connection that makes this pub, in one of the most competitive areas for the leisure dollar, a beauty.

The North Port Hotel is the DeBortoli Pub of the year 2021.

Neil Mitchell
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