197 Watton St Werribee, VIC 3030
|Opening hours||Sun-Thu noon-11pm, Fri-Sat noon-1am|
|Features||Licensed, Outdoor seating, Bar, Family friendly|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9742 2895|
There's footy on the TV, Oz rock on the playlist, steak in the sandwich and beer in the glass.
Sitting in the eye of the Saturday night storm at the newly reopened Bridge Hotel, it's hard to believe Melbourne lived without pubs most of last year. All that chat gone missing, gatherings undone, work debriefs lacking, tradie lunches in cars rather than bars: so much life happens in pubs and it's great to have it back.
Bridge Hotel was bought by its local council, the City of Wyndham, in 2016 and MoL Group (owners of the Marquis of Lorne, Mount Erica Hotel and Union House) won a tender to operate it in 2019. Key to the bid was a no-pokies business plan: Wyndham's electronic gambling machines suck almost $300,000 out of the community each day.
A comprehensive reno retained deco timberwork and checkerboard floors and picked up the vintage vibes with a curved bar, floral carpet and Australiana styling. Open since November, it's spacious and flexible with a huge deck, function rooms, a demarcated dining room and a side alley with more outdoor seating.
Chef Jacob Swain's menu covers pub classics while sneaking in retro fun and contemporary flavours. The potato cakes are so crunchy they drown conversation.
There's a deconstructed prawn cocktail: you deadhead prawns, wrap them in iceberg, add avocado and salmon caviar, spoon in marie rose sauce, then turn your face sideways to get it in before the sauce drips to your elbow.
Spice-roasted cauliflower is tumbled with grains and scattered with labne. Steak is a signature and comes with bearnaise or pepper sauce or in a tasty steak pide with chutney and cheese. It's respectful, crowd-pleasing food.
Werribee is going gangbusters. The resurrection of Bridge Hotel is a point of civic pride and a reason to spend local rather than trek to the city side of the West Gate Bridge for a night out.
Whether you're a dog that gets to hang with its owner on the deck, a plumber in for a counter meal or a full forward reliving goals with her teammates, it's a triumph.
Rating: Four stars (out of five)