What’s more important? Great food or great service? Well it doesn’t matter at Albert Park Hotel, because you get both. I’ve had the odd drink here, being one of the closest pubs to my place, and I’ve found it very trendy and consequently intimidating in a way that only slightly-less-trendy females like myself can understand. However, to step into the bistro at the rear is to step into another place. The décor is an eclectic mix of trendy, sophisticated and eccentric; from the stem-less Riedel glasses on each table, to the carpet taken straight from Grandma’s floor.
The thing that stands out from the beginning is the service and attention to detail. I called ahead and was told I didn’t need to book on this particular night. “Just turn up and we’ll look after you”. As we perused the menu a plate of (great) olives and grissini arrived at our table to keep us going. As tempted as I was by the zucchini flowers stuffed with fontina, artichokes and ricotta, we decided to skip straight to mains. The menu has a heavy seafood focus, with cuttlefish salad, sea scallops and smoked ocean trout amongst the entrée selection, and barramundi, kingfish and flounder amongst the mains.
I regularly opt for red meat when eating out however I bypassed lamb and steak for wild barramundi fillet, green papaya relish with crispy pork and roasted chilli sambal. S-bo ordered the roasted kingfish on celeriac mash with fennel, radish and fetta salad.
We took a little longer to decide on a wine, particularly considering the depth of the list. Did we want red or white? Sparkling? A whole bottle or perhaps a few glasses of a few wines? In the end, on the waiter’s recommendation, we chose a bottle of the Vavasour Pinot Gris from the Marlborough, NZ. There’s a good selection of wines by the glass if you’re just after a couple too.
Bread arrived on our table and meals came shortly after. I was about to say the fish seemed fresh, but in fact the whole plate was fresh. Lime juice gave the whole dish a lift and cut through the chilli. The green papaya relish didn’t have a distinctive flavour but that was more than compensated by the pork.
It’s a great feeling when you’ve eaten a beautiful meal and feel satisfied but not full. We thought it was such a nice feeling to enjoy our wine without our stomachs bursting that we skipped dessert and had some cheese instead. Of the three cheeses on offer, we ordered the Bleu Brebis La Memee. Not only did this come with crackers, it also came with semi-dried grapes (stewed? I’m not really sure what they were) and quince paste.
It was the perfect way to end such a delicious dinner. Albert Park Hotel will no longer be “the pub down the road where everyone’s trendy”, it’ll be “the pub down the road with the great bistro out back”.
Albert Park Hotel
Cnr Montague St & Dundas Place
ph. (03) 9690 5459