One thing I miss about living in London is the pubs. London pubs have a great sense of history and often you can get a really good meal at them. Most Melbourne pubs have the emphasis firmly on the booze rather than the food but one pub which has consistently set itself apart as a “gastro pub” is O’Connell’s in South Melbourne.
O’Connell’s has just been renovated and the menu revamped so my sister’s birthday was the perfect excuse to revisit it for a family lunch. Wood panelled walls painted dark grey give a sense of theatre to the pub and crisp linens and shining glassware signal that you are not in any ordinary watering hole. The prices of the drinks are also a bit of a giveaway, order anything other than a Carlton Draught ($4.50) and you will find yourself paying a whopping $8.50 for something like an Asahi. That’s an expensive beer!
There are now two menus – one for the restaurant proper and a more simple bar menu. We ate outside because it was a sunny day and so were limited to the bar menu. The bar menu mainly sticks to classic pub grub like burgers, pies and steaks, all reasonably priced. Unfortunately these classics were not perfectly executed. The main problem was the accompanying fat chips which came with each meal. They hadn’t been cooked enough and were a pale yellow instead of bronzed, crisp and fluffy inside.
The chicken schnitzel ($24) was dry and slightly rubbery and the steak ($28), while perfectly cooked to medium rare with a smoky char from the wood fired grill, was pretty tiny weighing in at 200 grams.
The best dish on the bar menu was the pie of the day ($20) which was beef, slow cooked until it fell apart at the fork. Topped with a hat of burnished puff pastry it delivered where the other dishes did not. While O’Connell’s now certainly looks like a serious gastro pub the food at the bar menu doesn’t live up to its reputation.
Details: O’Connell’s, Cnr Coventry and Montague Streets, South Melbourne (Ph 03 9699 9600)