TOWN HALL HOTEL, MELBOURNE: SIMPLE PLEASURES, WELL EXECUTED

A spruced up boozer with best-in-class steaks; Fitzroy’s Town Hall hotel has just become the suburb’s best pub.

It’s the quintessential dish of summer. Beautiful tomatoes that juicily sing of the season erratically chopped for interesting textures tossed through good oil with great olives, radish whispers and slivers of supple red onion. Delicious on its tomatoey own with charry good, garlic-rubbed bruschetta, so much better once the burrata pouch alongside is punctured, oozing its creamy curd bounty over the plate. It’s tomato and cheese, sure, but elevated to great heights through great produce, and is a perfectly indicative dish of Fitzroy’s newly reborn Town Hall Hotel, where the public bar frothies are still frosty and the dining room a step above the rest. It’s all about simple pleasures, expertly executed.

Sean Donovan is the man who’s taken over this pub and is back in the kitchen; he who won over the west with his best-in-class steaks at the Station Hotel in Footscray, then turned on the rotisserie at South Melbourne’s Wayside Inn, all the while creating pubs where the food is as good as the welcome is warm.

Having made his name with steaks, there’s of course excellent meat coming off the red gum-fired grill here, from a 180g flatiron through a 1kg dry aged pasture fed behemoth, as skilfully cooked as the chunky hand-cut chips and tarragon-rich béarnaise alongside.

The dining room is as broodingly handsome as Clooney on a good day, with an endearing mishmash of artfully chosen ephemera on the dark walls – wooden tennis racquets next to op shop watercolours and Copperart.

In here you’ll find table service from a sharp, engaging, knowledgeable team, with linen napkins, hefty cutlery, wines poured at the table – this is a class offering in decidedly unpretentious wrapping. Alternatively take a seat in the brilliantly light and bright atrium where it’s order-at-the-bar casual, though the same menu is offered throughout. So you can share a plate of expectedly excellent charcuterie wherever you fancy, or sit and sip and snack on brilliant cauliflower fritters swiped through smoky-good babaganoosh topped with spiced almonds, perfect when paired with a pint of Hawkers from up the road.

In an ever-gentrifying yet still endearingly unpolished suburb filled with them, the Fitzroy Town Hall has just become its quintessential pub.

Written by Dan Stock

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