Pub grub in Melbourne – Golden Fleece Hotel
The area of Melbourne directly to the south and the west of the city centre is undergoing a huge transformation. What started with the Docklands well over a decade ago, is now spreading down the largely industrial zone either side of Montague Street.
At night, it’s a quiet area, apart from a constant flow of cars heading up to the West Gate and Monash freeways. There’s a small amount of residential development but much more of that is to come with the land being rezoned and most eateries are only open during working hours. An exception is the Golden Fleece Hotel.
The hotel got renovated quite a few years back – we became aware of it as soon as we moved into the Docklands precinct. It’s an easy 10 minute walk from our apartment. It has struggled though to find its niche. Early on, it had some excellent tapas-style food but there just wasn’t enough local patronage to keep it alive.
So when a coupon deal landed in Greedy Girl’s inbox, she summoned gluttonous husband and friends The Artist and Easily Pleased to literally trundle just down the road for a three-course meal and a choice of a glass of wine or beer each – for not much more than A$30 per person – a bargain in anyone’s language.
While we prefer to cook the basics at home, sometimes you just need to head out for some pub grub. ‘Counter meals’ as they were quaintly termed eons ago, have been a staple of Australian pubs and tend to revolve around steak, pizza, pasta and the ubiquitous chicken or veal ‘parma’. (If you’re reading this outside Australia, a parma is a breaded piece of meat, pan fried and topped with cheese, ham and tomato sauce.)
Given the cheffy pretensions the venue had when it first was renovated, we thought we’d be in for some reasonable pub grub, made all the sweeter by the fact that we could choose anything on the menu. Most coupon deals, or offers as part of an accommodation package, allow only a limited choice.
All good. We girls decided we’d share a bottle of Marlborough sauvignon blanc and let the boys have the included drinks. This caused a moment’s consternation with our very affable waiter. A bottle wasn’t included in the deal, he said. No dramas there – we explained we were happy to buy the bottle and for the men to take what was part of the offer. Okey dokey. Sorted.
We each chose a starter which came to the table to be shared, opting for salt and pepper calamari, lamb and mint sausages, pumpkin, sage and feta arancini and baked pork meatballs with sage and pine nuts in a tomato sauce.
All the starters were very edible. The calamari was tender, although there wasn’t much spice from the salt and pepper coating. The arancini could have had a bit more texture, but they and the other dishes were hoovered up. Greedy Girl couldn’t taste any sage in the arancini or meatballs and nothing was a particular ‘wow’ but we were all quite content.
We all then had our own main courses. Both gluttonous husband and The Artist had the eye fillet steak, featured at the top of this post. On the menu, this dish alone was priced at A$32 – so we were already in front. The steak was well cooked (gluttonous husband of course asked for his to be served still mooing) and the roesti accompanying it was quite nice. The jus and onion jam were OK, but gluttonous husband commented he didn’t warm (sorry, bad pun) to the use of chilli.
Easily Pleased took pan-seared salmon with buttery garlic mash, beans and a mango-chilli salsa. He enjoyed the dish. Butter/garlic/mango/chilli isn’t a list of ingredients Greedy Girl would necessarily put together, but this plate of food went south very quickly, so it must have worked.
Greedy Girl was hankering for a burger. This was the USA Cheeseburger – with what was termed ‘USA’ sauce (basically a slightly spicy, tangy mayo), pickles, lettuce and tomato, served with a side of fries. The burger itself was perfectly fine – with a decent meaty hit and plenty of moisture. The bun looked on the heavy side but was both light enough to be easy to bite into and had enough substance to not disintegrate.
While the boys had moved on to a rather young Barossa Valley red by this stage, we were happy to keep going through our choices. There are only two dessert options.
Gluttonous husband and Easily Pleased had a huge brick of sticky date pudding, served with a honeycomb mascarpone and butterscotch. It went down a treat.
Greedy Girl and The Artist both had the apple crumble, topped with praline and a quenelle of vanilla bean ice-cream. This was undoubtedly the most disappointing dish of the evening. It was very, very sweet and the praline quite hard. Scooping below the crumb, the apples were quite watery. Most of this dish went back to the kitchen.
And we were done. Upstairs is another big area with an outdoor deck and the giddy delights of several pinball machines. Greedy Girl and Easily Pleased decided to test each other out in terms of who had the greatest ‘misspent youth’. Who won? A lady never tells …
This was a fun thing to do with friends, with decent food for the most part. It’s a dark and atmospheric place at night, with good music and the usual suspects such as a pool table and loads of big screens featuring various sports.
As the area moves to more of a residential zone, hopefully pubs like this will thrive.
Golden Fleece Hotel
120 Montague Street, South Melbourne