Unit 1 267 Given Terrace Paddington, QLD 4064
|Opening hours||Mon-Thu 4pm–12am ; Fri-Sun 12pm–12am|
|Features||Accepts bookings, Bar, Events, Family friendly, Groups, Licensed, Lunch specials, Pub dining, Wheelchair access|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Cash, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||07 3367 8300|
When you're talking, writing, gramming, tweeting, Snapchatting or Etch-A-Sketching about Paddington's new boozer, there's every chance you might want to call it a gastropub. Please don't.
1. "Gastro" prompts memories of vomit bowls, Ready Steady Cook reruns and sweaty pyjamas.
2. It assumes that standard pub food - mixed grills, chook-raffle chops, Burger Rings threaded on Keno pencils - is inferior. The folly of the food-illiterate. It's not. Give me steak and three veg over kimchi-covered poutine any day of the week.
This snug Given Terrace joint from Jamie Webb (Lefty's Old Time Music Hall, Ginger's Diner, Sonny's House of Blues) isn't a pub anyway. With, you know, a TAB and things. It's a bar in the two-storey, 19th-century cottage once home to The Lark, and it's a nice place to get sozzled and eat chips.
I've visited a few times and on most occasions, it's humming near capacity but never feels cramped. A plushy booth is the ticket on cooler nights, while jacket-optional weather warrants an outdoor spot on the street. There are also a few tables on the first level, which is full of delicious natural light during the day. If an afternoon of backgammon and whisky is your dime, come on down.
Interiors are nautical by nature with a working fireplace, ye olde swinging sign above the door, proud timber and feathered taxidermy. You can pretend you're in a Bristol pub, but with less Stella and more natural wine.
Patrick Sullivan's Fruit of the Sky 2014 Yarra Valley pinot noir ($105) is a cracker, fresh and bracing with whiffs of blackcurrant and stewed rhubarb. Meanwhile, Ochota Barrels Green Room grenache shiraz ($65) is exactly the kind of crunchy, summery juice you want to drink with fat and happy merguez meatballs ($9).
Chatty staff can mix the perfect mid-arvo negroni ($17) and there's a nice selection of Young Henrys, Green Beacon and Balter across four taps. Love that toasty Balter Alt Brown ale. Also love that I can order it in a pot, schmiddy or pint ($6/$8/$11) and that I can drink that pint with Bruce Springsteen and Blues Brothers on the jukebox (or Spotify account, more likely).
Chef Nick Stapleton has skipped over from Ginger's and put together a menu partly inspired by the "Mum's working back, Dad's on dinner duty" school of cooking. Best of the batch is a chip butty ($9) with black garlic mayo, house-made tomato sauce and shoestring fries that smoosh between bread for hot carb-on-carb action.
Other Dad's Kitchen classics include pork ragu (read: bolognese) on toast ($14) and fish fingers ($9 for four). The ragu does the filling job it's tasked with and wouldn't be out of place in any red sauce Italian takeaway. More seasoning wouldn't be a bad thing. Fish fingers are a better time with soft, white hake immolated in crunchy, salty breadcrumbs. A world away from the oven-baked fish fingers I'd eat in front of the ABC as a kid. The ones the colour of SuperTed with cirrhosis.
There's functioning-adult food, too. Mussels steamed in white wine ($14) beg for hot-buttered bread and glass of something cold (the $7 house pinot grigio will do) and crouton-sized bits of pork belly ($16) are a sticky treat with their pickled habanero and maple glaze. You'll smell the plate before it hits the table. A standard-issue minute steak ($27) comes with peppercorn sauce, chips and leafy salad (hey, Mum's home!) and vegetarians pull the long straw via pan-fried gnocchi rolling about in mascarpone, hazelnuts and golden-brown mushrooms.
With Coles and Woolworths snapping up every pub from Mudgee to Nudgee, we need more venues like Hope and Anchor. Watering holes that offer the community something other than Monty's Rewards points, abused schnitzels, pokies and conveyer-belt bottle shops.
More house-made fish fingers, brown ale and Bruce Springsteen, I say. More natural Australian wine and more natural Australian light. More local beer. More local spirits. More fun.