Please note, the Royal Park Hotel is no longer open. It’s my understanding that the building was sold and they just shut up shop.
It’s been a long long weekend. I feel like I’ve drunk and ate many fine beers and food. A “hot and numbing” crispy duck at Spice Temple, many fine beers at Beer Deluxe, dinner at Coburg’s Post Office Hotel, breakfast at Cafe Vue, homemade hotcross buns and homemade “Beeramisu” with Holgate Empress (Mocha) Porter (we also did some exercise and non beer related things, I promise). However one food experience really stood out. A rose amongst a sea of other roses, which were probably just as good or maybe better in some way, but this rose was a little unexpected and different than the other roses in that sea of roses.
Royal Park Hotel
The Royal Park Hotel, on Queensberry St, North Melbourne, is just over a month old in its newest form. It has previous lives as a pub and a tapas bar, but the owners, the couple behind nearby Grigons & Orr, have revamped this old fashioned pub into… well, an old fashioned pub.
The Royal Park Hotel has been turned into the most kitsch-retro-cool place in town without even appearing to try. It feels like a bizarre step back in time. The restaurant has a hostess in a little booth, there are hanging plants, vinyl placemats that have to be seen to even comprehend how amazing they are, a pool table (which is a rarity in the area), and $10 jugs of beer… which I probably should address in some way, being a beer blog.
So the one thing that lets this pub down slightly, just slightly, is the tap beer. They have a Mountain Goat Steam Ale, which is a fine beer… but after that there is a St Arnau Pilnser, which I know nothing about but found fairly unremarkable, the usual Carlton Draught/Coopers combination and in the $10 jug was some sort of contract brewed beer that tastes like a sweeter Carlton Draught.
Anyway, beer aside. The menu at the Royal Park is fantastic. It’s fantastic because it is lifted straight out of an 80’s Australian/New Zealand bistro. From a time when going out to the pub for dinner meant something. A time that really established the pub as the dining place of choice for couples and families across our great countries. They have spaghetti and meatballs served in a cob loaf, shrimp cocktail, deep fried prawns and Camembert, the roast of the day (for 2) comes out in a small cast iron pot. As fine dining restaurants in Melbourne continue to go crazy with the increasingly masturbatory “deconstructions” of old favourites, the Royal Park just serves old favourites. I can’t wait until my parents are in town next so I can take dad there to have a carpet bag steak (that’s a steak stuffed with oysters!). On the desert menu there is pavlova, deep fried icecream, and obviously they have a “flambé” .
In testament to the food, both times we have visited we have had the same thing. Lady Ale has had a T-bone steak diane, which comes with corn on the cob and a baked potato (w/sour cream of course); while I have enjoyed the chicken parma, which comes with a slice of pineapple and a green salad with avocado. Both are amazing. The food is locally sourced and beautifully cooked. It’s old fashioned pub food, done to perfection.
On our second visit, the waitress took away our plates and came back with a complementary glass of port and a chocolate truffle each. I am not shitting you. Complementary port and truffles. And they were delicious! I’m told they will be a fixture and not just an easter special and man I hope so.
North Melbourne has some amazing bars and eateries. Just down the road is the Courthouse Hotel, which does some of the best pub food in Melbourne, while also having a spectacular tap and bottled beer selection. Their mixture of old and new world beer is fantastic. Then there is the North Melbourne Town Hall Pub. A great old rock bar with an awesome beer garden and one of my favourite steaks in town. Also in the neighbourhood is Prudence, Red Monkey Tea House and Rrose; all brilliant in their own way. There is also an array of great restaurants and cafes too numerous to name. However, somehow, the Royal Park Hotel has managed to stand out. The nostalgia is laid on thick but is not cheesy; the food is great; the staff are nice. It all just works so well… now lets hope they do something about their beer menu.
I rate it; 4.5 boxes of Roses chocolates