Limerick Castle Hotel

161 Errol St, North Melbourne
Phone: 9329 6454

There seems to be a trend of closing pubs around my work. The Redback closed last year, and more recently, Naughton’s closed. While this is plainly terrible to the college students who rely on the pub for readily accessible booze, it also shrinks the number of places to go for a quick and easy work lunch around Parkville.

The building manager Mr N likes to head down to the Limerick Castle for lunch, and sometimes an afternoon beer. I wish I were a building manager sometimes. So when we had to find a venue for a colleague’s farewell lunch recently, we took Mr N’s suggestion and went over to his local.

First thing I’d like to note about the Limerick Castle is that the prices are super cheap. I mean like pub prices you would have expected to see five or ten years ago. The service is also friendly, and there’s a bistro bit out the back, as well as a beer garden, should you feel the need to escape the screens silently displaying the racing results. Yes, this is a TAB pub.

And seeing as I’d never tried it before, I ordered the Lamb’s fry. A steal at $10. I know, it’s offal, and offal is cheap, but still, $10 seemed a bargain for this huge serve.

The liver (because that’s what lamb’s fry is, you see) was just a touch on the over-cooked side, but still it wasn’t dry or tough. That iron-y liver taste was well paired with bacon and grilled tomato, all of this being held together by an onion gravy and soft, creamy mashed potato. Soul-warming stuff.

A couple of my workmates had the chilli con carne. It comes with rice and is surrounded by corn chips. They both said it was good.

A few of the ladies had the emperor fish and chips (I think it’s a lot like snapper?) which apparently had a nice spice and herb crumb to it.

However about half of the table went for the ‘Chicken Sanga’. It looked like a heft sandwich, with the only complaint being there might have been a bit too much mayo, which made it a bit messy to eat.
So if you’re after a hearty pub lunch in North Melbourne, you’ll probably enjoy the Limerick Castle. It’s not fancy, but it’s got a lot of heart. And liver.

Limerick Castle Hotel on Urbanspoon

Hot Poppy

9 Errol St, North Melbourne
Phone: 9326 9299

A cute little cafe up the quieter end of Errol St, Hot Poppy has been around since my uni days. I remember a friend quite excitedly cheering “Hot Poppy!” with a Japanese accent, when asked about where to go for breakfast. And indeed, their breakfast is quite good. I imagine that these days, with places like Fandango and Auction Rooms in the area, it’s not quite so hard to get a table at Hot Poppy for a weekend breakfast, though I could be wrong.

On this occasion, I stopped in for a working lunch with Mr A, at his suggestion. It was a blustery Winter’s day outside, so I felt like some hearty soup. The soup of he day was a Moroccan chicken and lentil soup.

Served with some warm Turkish bread, it was just the hit of heartiness I was after. The spices were used subtly, and balanced well with the tomato base. I thought it could have dealt with a little more chilli heat, but that’s probably just me. I’m not sure Moroccan food is supposed to challenge you like other curry-style cuisines.

Mr A had a toasted roast vegetable pide. Which is another way of saying mini Turkish bread. It looked pretty tasty.

Don’t let this review fool you, however. Hot Poppy does more than simple soups and sandwiches – other people were having more complicated foods like risotto and stews all around us. The service was efficient and unobtrusive.

Hot Poppy on Urbanspoon

KL Bunga Raya

34 Errol Street, North Melbourne
Phone: 9329 1762

Always on the search for good places for lunch, my colleagues and I wandered up to Errol St, North Melbourne. Unsure of exactly where to go, but with the idea that Asian food was the order of the day, we stopped at KL Bunga Raya, an unassuming little Malaysian restaurant. Having been to Nasi Lemak House the day before, I wasn’t super enthusiastic, but the smells upon walking in soon changed my mind.

I ordered the Curry Laksa, a pretty safe bet – laksa is like pizza and sex: bad laksa is still laksa – and also a good benchmarking dish for any Malaysian Restaurant, I think. This laksa delivered flavour in spades, with loads of curry flavour, as well as the sweetness and richness that indicates a heft amount of coconut milk and palm sugar. It lacked something in the way of heat, I felt, but then I do like my Malaysian food reasonably spicy. The amount of chicken and seafood was generous, but for me the standout ingredient was the eggplant; soft and richly smoky, melding with the laksa soup so beautifully. The overall size of the dish was also quite generous, and I would have been happy to have this for dinner, let alone lunch.

Mr R also had the laksa, but he opted for the Seafood Curry Laksa, which has no chicken, but calamari and mussels.

Ms S had the Char Kway Teow, which looked and smelled good – not too dark or oily, and with a decent amount of char and wok hei (wok air/breath – a certain smokiness which is one of the intangibles of good stir-fry cooking).

I liked KL Bunga Raya. It’s simple, classic Malaysian food, at the expected cheap prices (most rice or noodle dishes are under $10).

KL Bunga Raya on Urbanspoon

Char Siu House

37 Errol St, North Melbourne
Phone: 9328 2812

Char Siu House is little Chinese restaurant, of the primarily Hong Kong BBQ ilk, in Errol St, North Melbourne. I used to live around the corner from here in 1996 when I first moved to Melbourne, and it was a bakery back then, I believe. But the times they a-change, and bread is replaced by pork. And chicken. And duck. So who’s complaining, really? Interestingly, Fungs Asian Food and Sushi Bar, the local Chinese takeaway joint in 1996, is still open and doing remarkably well. I remember their food being pretty horrible, but it’s been over a decade, so perhaps things changed there, too.

I stopped in at Char Siu House for lunch a while back. The ladies who run the place are lovely, even if there’s a bit of a Fawlty Towers-style feel to the way they yell things out to one another. But that adds to the charm of the place for me. It helps that I can speak Cantonese, too, I think. I don’t worry about what they’re saying, because I know it’s pertaining to the couple on the next table’s char kway teow. This time around, I sampled the BBQ hanging in the glass case at the front of the restaurant.

Roast duck and roast pork (not char siu, but the other kind, the belly pork with the salty, crispy crackling) on rice.The duck was nice and gamey, though a touch on t he salty side. The crackling on that pork was wonderfully crunchy, and the pork was fatty enough to make me feel a tad guilty. Then I got over and shoveled in the next mouthful. The servings are generous, though it seemed a little stingy on the cursory bok choy (underneath the mounds of meat in that photo). Chinese tea is free, as in all good Hong Kong BBQ joints.

While this place isn’t up to City BBQ or Rose Garden standards, it’s decent, and sometimes you just need a hit of meat with animal skin on it.

Char Siu House on Urbanspoon

Auction Rooms

103-107 Errol St, North Melbourne
Phone: 9326 7749

I’ve been meaning to get to Auction Rooms for ages, but for some reason I never got around to it. For a while, North Melbourne just wasn’t in my sphere of travel, and then more recently the place always seemed overflowing at lunch times during Summer, when I would wander over from work to Errol St in my lunch hour. Finally, @eatnik and I ventured over, and were most pleased that we did!

As Claire at Melbourne Gastronome has rightly said, the space is amazing; check out her post for some photos to give you an idea. I love how the big space is broken up into smaller discrete areas using levels, but without any real obstructions, so it retains a huge airiness to it.

A sucker for duck, I ordered the duck and wombok salad. It was refreshing and punchy; the wombok was crunchy, and the vinaigrette was nicely acidic – reminiscent of the Thai style of fish sauce dressing. My only complaint was the duck was a little dry, but that did result in bits of crispy duck skin in there too, so it’s a catch-22.

@eatnik had the smoked trout with bubble and squeak, on @alexlobov‘s recommendation from MSG. She wasn’t disappointed! It all seemed a little rich for me as a lunch dish, but it’s good that Auction Rooms has such variety in their menu.

Auction Rooms also has a good reputation for coffee, but as neither @eatnik nor I drink coffee (on a regular basis), I can’t comment on that.

Auction Rooms on Urbanspoon