O'Connell's

Corner Coventry and Montague Streets, South Melbourne, Victoria

All Details
  • 03 9699 9600
  • $$$
Retro appeal: O'Connell's in South Melbourne.
Retro appeal: O'Connell's in South Melbourne. Photo: Penny Stephens

Dani Valent

A good pub meal makes life better, turns hearts fond, eyes bright and generally helps the earth spin at a jauntier angle. If you're doubtful, fight the regulars for a table at O'Connell's. You'll see that I'm right.

The stately corner pub was built in 1873 as O'Connell's Centenary Hotel. In 1990 it relaunched as one of Melbourne's first gastropubs and, since then, it's seen excellent chefs (most notably, Greg Malouf, Cath Kalka and Adrian Richardson) hone their styles and please the throngs. New owners and a smart refurb earlier this year have given new life to old bones. The beautiful front parlour has a snaking bar, the dining room is carpeted so conversation is possible and a large pavement area feels like the perfect spot for a staycation steak. Strong service speaks of a happy culture and bonhomie is served up with the same consistency as the food.

Chef Ian Alexander (ex-Gill's Diner) started in spring but he hasn't reinvented the menu, possibly because some changes would see South Melbourne erupt into revolution. There's always a pot pie with a towering puff crust: it might be beef, Guinness and mushroom, pork shoulder and mustard, or chicken and leek, and it always comes with mashed potato and mushy peas. The comfort food theme continues with the veal schnitzel crumbed with parsley and pecorino, and a classy burger, at least one of which always seems to be waiting on the pass to be ferried to a salivating diner.

House-made salmon gravlax.
House-made salmon gravlax with dill creme fraiche. Photo: Penny Stephens

There's joyous retro appeal in the iceberg lettuce dotted through the menu, and in dishes like ricotta-stuffed zucchini flowers, salmon gravlax with dill creme fraiche and the choice of creamy peppercorn, red wine and mushroom sauce for the grass-fed steaks.

More elaborate dishes include a confit pork shoulder rolled up with black pudding and scattered with crisp strips of pig ear. Rhubarb and rice pudding topped with cinnamon ice-cream is still trucking on in the warmer weather. The ice-cream is made here, as is the blood sausage, gravlax, sauces and chutneys. I think the honest toil of preparing stuff from scratch shines through in reliable food that delivers exactly what it promises without overreaching. The fact that O'Connell's stays open right through the holidays is yet another reason to love it.

Rating: Four stars (out of five)

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Corner Coventry and Montague Streets, South Melbourne, Victoria

  • Prices - Entrees: $6-$25; Mains: $20-$39; Desserts: $14
  • Features - Licensed, Bar, Outdoor seating
  • Chef(s) - Ian Alexander
  • Cards accepted - AMEX, Diners Club, Mastercard, Visa, EFTPOS
  • Opening Hours - Daily: noon - 10pm
  • Author - Dani Valent
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7 comments so far

  • Prices - Entrees: $6-$25; Mains: $20-$39; Desserts: $14
    Seriously .. At these prices your calling it pub food?
    Call it what it is, a restaurant in a pub

    Commenter
    KarenG
    Location
    CBD
    Date and time
    December 23, 2013, 12:31PM
  • So it is not a pub now...it looks too twee and the food is restaurant food. I am all for this...in a restaurant but we are losing our old pubs with counter lunches and a place just to be super casual and just over a reasonably priced meal to go with your drink. Sad.

    Commenter
    Gordie
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    December 23, 2013, 12:40PM
  • Unfortunately these people who buy pubs just don't get it. They have ideas of grandeur and want to compete with the "big end of town" restaurants. For god sake someone open a pub that serves a good burger (huxtaburger style) with hand cut chips and not the usual "bought In" shoe string variety A good schnitzel with homemade coleslaw and a decent dressing. And cold pot beer that that doesn't poor flat and has a decent head on it.... Ahhhh to dream.

    Commenter
    Bobbyboy
    Location
    Middle Park
    Date and time
    December 23, 2013, 12:59PM
  • Commenting as someone who has actually been to O'Çonnell's recently (two weeks ago), I think the article and categorisation is spot on. It is rightly recognised as one of Melbourne's first 'gastropubs' and straddles the divide between pub and restaurant perfectly which is what it seeks, and has always sought, to do. The prices are more than reasonable for what you get, so if you take umbrage at paying that much for 'pub' food, perhaps set your expectations a bit lower and go to one of the dime a dozen boozers around where food is a mere afterthought. However, if you want a place where you can either have a casual beer and/or a high quality meal, then pop along there. Just please don't whinge about the prices or whether it is or isn't a pub.

    Commenter
    Scandal
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    December 23, 2013, 1:53PM
  • Agree with earlier posters. This is not a pub. I totally agree with the first quote: "good pub meal makes life better, turns hearts fond, eyes bright and generally helps the earth spin at a jauntier angle". The picture included with this one is not a pub meal.

    Commenter
    heath
    Location
    Date and time
    December 23, 2013, 2:24PM
  • A good old-fashioned counter meal of bangers and mash, or the Nott's(ingham Hill pub near Monash) hamburger dinners, when I was a student are some of the best pub meals I have had. I go to a restaurant not a defacto restaurant if I want something better. These pubs are just 'dumbed down' restaurants, and have lost the plot.

    Commenter
    Jenjen
    Location
    n e vic
    Date and time
    December 23, 2013, 3:18PM
  • Pub, restaurant - whatever you would like to call O'Connell's, the food is truly delicious. Have enjoyed many meals here. A plus: there's always plenty of free parking in the vicinity.

    Commenter
    Ted Bear
    Location
    Prahran
    Date and time
    January 07, 2014, 1:36PM

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