The Napier – a Bogan Burger misfire

210 Napier St, Fitzroy
Phone: 9419 4240

It was an event which had been months in the making. It started last year, even. There was talk of smashing and burger domination. It was scheduled, then re-scheduled, then re-scheduled again. @thatjessho and I were down for some major bogan bashing. Bogan burger bashing, that is. So somehow with the Christmas feasting season, and then the following #fatty adventures, it turned out to be March by the time we got around to hitting up the Napier for the Bogan Burger challenge.

Now for those of you who aren’t familiar with the bogan burger, it’s a burger comprised of a steak, a chicken schnitzel, a potato cake, bacon and egg, and then a bit of vegetable matter to round it out. Here’s a couple of photos. The reason I don’t have photos of my own is because of Jesus.

It was Lent. And while I’m no Christian, I like novelty activities, and giving up red meat for Lent seemed pretty novel at the time. Now, I had counted on the gaping hole in my soul caused by denying myself pho for the 40 days… wait, so Lent causes a gaping hole in my soul, ready for the Devil to enter??? What I hadn’t really counted on was the fact that the Napier has a strict No Substitutions policy when it comes to their Bogan Burger. Gotta hand it to them for protecting the integrity or their product.

So we spent the afternoon basking in the wan Autumnal sun, sinking pints of cider and shooting the breeze. The Napier’s beer garden is good for that. Eventually, we thought we should probably eat something, though with that much liquid in our bellies, I’m ashamed to say we both baulked at the thought of the Bogan Burger that day. My excuse was my Lenten abstinence from red meat. Jess? Well, let’s just say she abstained in solidarity. Sort of. She ordered the regular beef burger.

… with crinkle cut fries! How much do we love crinkle cut? Nothing bespeaks true pub louder. Well, except maybe beer on tap. But it’s a close call.

As you can see, it’s a sizeable hunk of a patty. Smothered in melted, nay grilled, cheese, tomato sauce, and all that vegetable matter again.

I went for the chicken burger. Now I liked this, it was tasty, the chicken was well cooked, and there was a hefty whack of Caesar sauce/mayo. And I love the fact that the Napier serves their burgers with chips and coleslaw, not that insipid green salad that is difficult to stab with your fork and shove in your mouth. But just once, I’d like a place to do a chicken burger that’s actually a burger. You know, minced, with spices and stuff. A patty. A BURGER.

So no, we didn’t manage to get to the Bogan Burger. Apparently as bogans, we fail.

But as burger smashers, we totally still win.

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Hotel Metropolitan

36-42 Courtney St, North Melbourne
Phone: 9328 4222

I like pubs which put the word ‘Hotel’ first in their name. There’s something vaguely Franco-phoney about it, and also, it reminds me of that karaoke classic Hotel California.

A few of my colleagues and I had a farewell lunch for Ms S late last year at the Hotel Metropolitan. I’d been there only once before, for a beer and to watch the Melbourne Cup. That’s a whole other story, but basically I knew the place was a relatively upscale pub. I’d only been in the bar side of it, however. I hadn’t seen that there’s also a large, airy, genteel dining room off to the side.

The walls are covered with inoffensive (read neutral) artwork and botany illustrations, and I could imagine sitting down to a Devonshire tea in the setting quite easily. Except there’s a lack of soft furnishings in the room, so it gets a little bit echo-ey. Anyway, the service definitely matches the setting – attentive, polite, and just a touch on the cool side of friendly. All in all, pretty good.

Ms S and I both ordered the chicken Parmigiana, and were a little taken aback when it arrived. It was massive! So big that they couldn’t avoid placing it on top of the bed of chips (it’s a pet peeve of mine when pubs do that, because it makes it hard to cut the parma without mushing the chips below, and so then I have to move everything around on the plate, and it all gets a bit OCD). The napoli was full of tomato-ey zing, and the cheese was just starting to go golden brown. Definitely one of the better parmas I’ve had in recent times.

Ms K got the fish and chips. She was very happy with it, and I’d just like to note the two different gauges of chips which the Metropolitan was serving up. I think that illustrates their attention to detail, and a devotion to the quality of their food. Most other pubs wouldn’t bother, serving the same chips up with a parma as they do with the fried fish. Points for the little things, I say!
Mr R had the burger, which again was pretty mammoth. I liked the look of the sunnyside egg – there’s not many things better in this world than a runny yolk-as-sauce.
Ms M had the bangers and mash, which she enjoyed a lot. I think I would’ve liked a bit more mash with it, but then I am a chronic carb-a-holic.

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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.

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Baden Powell Hotel

65 Victoria Pde, Collingwood
Phone: (03) 9486 0811

For the past year, it’s been a bone of contention as to whether the Prince Patrick Hotel or the Baden Powell Hotel should be called my local. Well, there’s also the Peel, but this isn’t that sort of blog. So you can pretty much triangulate the exact co-ordinates of my house, for those playing along at home.

Anyway, having been here on a couple of occasions before, and being pleasantly surprised by the quality of the pizza, I recommended that Alex of the MSG should add it to the Pizza Battle list. He was a little dubious, but the opportunity arose, so we went down to test it out.

We started off with some snacky stuff; chips are always a good thing to judge a pub’s kitchen on, I think. We also got the arancini.

The chips were pretty top notch. Thick cut, they were crispy outside, and soft and fluffy inside. The aioli that came with them was pretty good too, though not particularly garlicky. More like mayo, really. The arancini were significantly bigger than I thought they would be, and you could probably just have the dish on its own for lunch, though a side salad might be a nice accompaniment. They’re filled with a bit of beef sugo (bolognese) and some mozzarella so you can have fun stretching the cheese about when you cut into it. Dey wuz some good rice balls.
We followed this up with the Bruta – salami, bocconcini, artichoke puree (and not mentioned on the menu, but quite plainly, basil was on there). When it arrived, Alex was immediately bothered by the amount of oil floating across the top of the pizza. And while there was quite a bit, i don’t think it was really the Gulf of Mexico, and that’s sort of to be expected when you order a pizza with salami on it.
The base was pretty good – crispy yet with a bit of bready give, it wasn’t too dry, and had a nice charred flavour from the oven. That being said, it was no D.O.C. or Ladro crust. The toppings were generous, and the chilli oil provided as a condiment wasn’t really necessary. The thought of adding more oil was a little off-putting, actually.

All in all, the Baden Powell is a great, relaxed place to share some good pizza with friends. The service was nothing short of impeccable – friendly to the point of charming, efficient and responsive almost to the point of being pre-emptive – though it was pretty empty, so the staff weren’t particularly stretched that evening.

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Tap House

T2 Domestic Terminal, Sydney Airport
Phone: (02) 8335 3000

After our weekend in Sydney, we were all dreading airport food a little, but had thought we could probably avoid it, our flight being scheduled at 7pm. We could be back home in Melbourne and hitting Chinatown for some late-ish dumplings before heading home to bed. But thanks to a three and a half hour delay on our Tiger flight home from Sydney, Mr I, Miss D and I found it necessary to park ourselves at the T2 domestic terminal’s local. Tap House.

Tap House is a pretty standard modern pub setup, albeit in an airport terminal. There’s about four beers and a cider on tap, and a reasonable selection of bottled ones. The wine list is short, but again, reasonable. In fact, we were surprised the prices weren’t inflated because of the airport location. Still, it’s just the domestic terminal – I think the international terminal might be another story.

While Miss D and I were still too full from our ramen and prawn mee earlier in the afternoon, Mr I somehow found the will to order a burger.

It was a bit of a mistake, really, but not because of the quality – it was reportedly quite good, and certainly looked fresh – but because of the size. Challenging would describe it well, especially given that Mr I’s belly was probably still full of collagen from the earlier tonkotsu meal.
I thought I’d take a more sensible option, and just ordered a bowl of wedges. Little did I know that I would be presented with an almost comically oversized serve of wedges. Which I proceeded to nurse until they got cold over the ensuing two hours left we had to wait for our flight.

So apart from the surprising find of good pub grub at the airport, the delay wasn’t all bad. We made friends with the delightful Miss V, who was similarly stuck in Tiger-induced limbo, and had recently moved to Melbourne. While I’m not eager to fly Tiger again any time soon, I do have to thank them for having been the cause for making a new friend. Serendipity strikes! 🙂

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Prince Patrick Hotel

135 Victoria Pde, Collingwood
Phone: 9416 1455

The Prince Patrick Hotel is one of about four pubs you could probably call my local. Funny thing s it took me about a year to get around to eating here.Having done so now, I’m pretty glad that I did. The place serves up good gastropub/bistro food, and the decor’s pretty genteel, though a little cavernous.

I ordered the pork belly. If you’ve read enough posts, you know that I, like most foodbloggers, have a fondness for pork belly. The crackling was nicely crunchy, but was let down a little by meat that was a bit on the tough side. It came with a hefty chunk of potato gratin, which was great for mopping up the jus with, and some bok choy which was thankfully not over-cooked.

Miss K had the chicken breast with some sort of mash or risotto – I can’t remember correctly! – but her main comment about the dish was that the chicken was a bit dry.

Mr D had the chicken parmigiana, which looked hefty, and was reportedly quite good. The chips were nice – I snuck a couple – but they really should invest in some larger plates. Nothing worse than good chips turning mushy because they’ve been saddled by a big hunk of parma!

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Bimbo Deluxe

376 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
Phone: 9419 8600

Bimbo Deluxe is an odd place. From the large bulbous glass bottles of infused vodka above the bar, to the strange little bell-shaped room with the funny accoustics up the back, it’s got a mix of character and enterprise that never really gelled for me. That aside, cheap pizza is a pretty strong draw-card. With $4 pizzas at most peak periods (except Friday nights), it’s hard to argue. Especially with pizzas that are pretty good, even if they’re not on par with Ladro or D.O.C. And even when they’re not $4, they’re still pretty cheap (most under $10).

This visit, I was going to order the agnello (lamb) pizza, as I’ve had it before and it never fails to satisfy, but on Alex‘s Foursquare recommendation, I opted for the fontina and potato pizza.

Such intense cheese, and carb-on-carb goodness, how is it possible to go wrong? They didn’t go wrong, but I should note this pizza is pretty heavy going once it starts to cool. You really start to feel the stodge of the potato and cheese combination.

Mr D had the roast pumpkin and pine nut and rosemary pizza.

The pumpkin, again, is a little heavy, and its sweetness makes it quite rich. The rosemary is a naturally great foil for this, and pine nuts are well toasted and plentiful.

While it isn’t somewhere I’d go on a first date, or take my family out for a meal, it’s a casual, if somewhat grungy – both tables we sat down at had pizza debris and there were no staff around early evening bussing or cleaning – place which serves up decent pizza which is so cheap you can afford an extra beer or two!

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Flinders Hotel

Cnr. Cook and Wood Streets, Flinders
Phone: (03) 5989 0201

It being the tailing night of a long weekend, a lot of restaurants were disappointingly closed in the Mornington Peninsula. We had been recommended to try the Long Table, or La Petanque, but neither were open. So seeing as we were staying in Cape Schanck, we headed over to nearby Flinders, for a little pub fare. The place has a strangely modern decor, with a feel not unlike the airy sterility of those made-over McDonald’s restaurants. Still, let’s not hold that against them.

Mr N had the open souvlaki, which looked rather good, if a little lacking in garlic sauce. Still, I shouldn’t be complaining about that! Lack of garlic sauce equals lack of garlic breath! I tried a little of the lamb; it was well seasoned, and still tender and juicy.

I had a hankering for fish and chips, so I ordered the fisherman’s basket. The quality of the seafood was quite good, though the calamari was a little over-cooked. The fish was superb, however, and I must give them points for crinkle-cut chips. My main problem with the meal was that everything as salted. I understand salting the chips, but the scallop? The calamari? The PRAWNS!? It was rather off-putting. Thankfully, we had a bottle of delicious Tuck’s Ridge Shiraz (which we had earlier been told of at the cellar door, but denied a tasting of due to the cellar door having sold out of it) to help wash away the salt.

I would say this wine was the highlight of the meal, but then I would be lying. The highlight was the triple-layered chocolate indulgence mousse. White chocolate mousse on top of milk chocolate mousse, on a dark chocolate cake base. And yes, that’s some sort of chocolate syrup and condensed milk feathering around the sides, and spatterings of cocoa at the corners. We barely finished this between the two of us. It was THAT rich.

While Flinders Hotel is probably not up there with some of the fine dining establishments in the area, it does serve up some decent pub fare. I’d like to hope the over-salting was an abberrance, an unfortunate accent to an otherwise pleasant experience.

Pugg Mahones

175 Elgin St, Carlton
Phone: 9347 0202

Let’s be frank: Pugg Mahones isn’t the sort of pub I’d choose to hang out in with my friends. But then I’m just not that sort of guy, I guess. Still, I have been there on multiple occasions, with workmates to inflict savage defeats upon our foes in Monday night trivia. It just sort of makes sense to arrive a little early and eat dinner there, because we’re all a little lazy on Mondays. And really, the food’s not bad. Not spectacular, but decent pub grub stuff.

The last time I was there, I had the beef and guiness pie. A satisfyng meal, though the chips have a variability of any busy pub kitchen, and on this occasion, they weren’t all that hot or crispy. The salad is uniformly mediocre.

One of mt workmates had the ‘steak sandwich’ wrap, which was purportedly not bad. Her chips looked better than mine – a different batch, I’m betting. I must have gotten the tail end of the previous one.

Oh, and since it’s a pub, I have of course tried the chicken parma there. It’s pretty pedestrian – I wouldn’t go there expressly for it, but it’s not a bad option on the menu.

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Lamb rump at (um, yeah) Elephant and Wheelbarrow

94-96 Bourke St, CBD

Phone: 9639 8444

Despite the cringe factor of eating at a pub chain, this wasn’t bad. I forgot to ask for it rare, though they didn’t ask, so I guess there may not be an option. The stuffing was good, though there was altogether too much of it. Good with the chips I poached off my friends’ plates.

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