Melbourne Food and Wine Festival: Pub grub gets gourmet with wine lists to match

WHERE once a fisherman’s basket piled high with crumbed and fried bits fresh from the freezer was about as fancy as a counter meal would get, now the parma at the local is more likely to be free-range and topped with prosciutto, while the porterhouse on the menu name-checks provenance.

Pub grub has come a long way.

Pubs have been moving from being purely focused on drinks since the late 1990s to today where much of the focus is on food, according to chef and publican Sean Donovan.

“Chefs left restaurants and moved into pubs, which meant you could find these find these really great food pubs that had really great wine lists and beers,” he said. “But the food came first, then the good wine followed.”

Mr Donovan took over the Fitzroy Town Hall Hotel last year after running The Station Hotel in Footscray and South Melbourne’s Wayside Inn and says customers are becoming increasingly savvy in what they expect a pub to deliver, especially one with food.

“People are demanding good drinks, good glassware. They want recognisable brands and an interesting wine list,” he said. “But it’s not just wine, look at beer culture now. Craft breweries are everywhere and most of it’s excellent.”

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