42 Punt Rd Windsor, VIC 3181
|Opening hours||Daily noon-late; kitchen Mon-Fri noon-3pm, 5pm-9.50pm; Sat-Sun noon-9.30pm|
|Features||Licensed, Bar, Accepts bookings, Gluten-free options, Outdoor seating, Vegetarian friendly|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||0401 846 377|
The Aussie pub has changed forever and while the chicken parma remains, we now require freakonomic burgers, stencil art and 19 craft beers on tap as standard.
Until recently this was the Irish-themed Pint on Punt, popular with the UK backpackers who sleep in the hostel upstairs. Long-time owner Evan Mahony has given the bar a hipster-lite overhaul, with olde-timey light fittings, exposed concrete and bushels of plastic leaves updating the decor nicely.
The original horseshoe bar provides a sturdy centre of gravity and it's a great spot to pull up a heavy stool with a mate and watch the fake fire. Speaking of stools, there are heaps of them in the Brewhouse dining room, which has sky-high tables and industrial metal seats which don't encourage lingering. Score one of the booths instead.
Drinks-wise, it's all about those beers selected by head bartender Stefan Trentini (ex-The Local Taphouse): many are common offerings from brewing behemoths such as James Squire and Little Creatures, but look further down the list and there are gems, like a Renaissance Bloody rye IPA (7.8 per cent) or a Prickly Moses IPA.
Not all of them hit the mark: a Brewcult Gingerbread Maniac stout is gaggingly sweet, and a Cavalier Cherry Sour is like a Warheads lolly in a glass.
The wine list is a tight range of local and Kiwi offerings under $50 a bottle, and spirits are of the J&B/JD variety.
Crowd-pleasing food from Kevin McLaughlin is high impact, and good fun – especially if you have the metabolism of a 21-year-old Irish lad. A basket of Nuclear Death Wings is made for competitive eating, and there's a hefty mac and cheese dish. Black pudding bon bons are more accessible than you might think, like bright red arancini balls with a blob of melty brie in the middle.
And ho! The burgers. Tailor-made for Instragrammers chasing quick likes, they have impressive height and maximum ooze. The spicy fried chicken burger is wildly rich with mayonnaise and finished with a swift kick of jalapeno, while the Angus beef burger has a loosely packed, dripping pink patty as thick as your wrist. Chips (served in little fryer baskets, natch) are beer-battered, planky and served with, yes, more mayo.
The soundtrack swings from Led Zeppelin to The xx, and it's the kind of joint where kids can sit on one table and not disrupt the hens do on the other. There are themed nights on the regular – Tuesday is Funky Bunch trivia, Wednesday parma night, Thursday Beer Nerds night.
The beers taste better, the burgers are bigger, but the Ale House is still a no-frills Aussie pub, rebooted for 2016. This is how we live now.
Pro Tip: There are events and deals every night of the week.
Go-to Dish: Blood pudding bon bons, $14; Beer tasting paddle, 5 x 90ml, $15.