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Phantom Reviewer

16 Jan 2012

Melbourne Public

3 1/2 Stars

Worth a trip downstream

South Wharf certainly came out of the gates with a bang. One massive convention centre, a leading hotel chain and the DFO snatched straight from the jaws of Southern Cross Station. But then for a while it seemed – not much else. Lots of empty cavernous spaces lying dormant over winter … an ember lit, waiting for the spark to catch.

Well it’s alight my friends, and while it might not yet exactly be raging, when it does take off, places like Melbourne Public will be ready for the crowds.

I love a good pub and love it even more when one pops up smack bang in the middle of a really obvious place that previously, you didn’t really know existed. I’m talking of course, about South Wharf, at the other end of the Yarra. And while Melbourne Public is huge, with plenty of sun kissed, outdoor space (that I believe takes refuge under a retractable roof in winter – how every Melbourne!), it’s also slightly hidden, tucked away behind the Polly Woodside so as you almost stumble across it at the last minute. Inside, the warehouse kind of feel doesn’t exactly scream intimacy, but it does make me want to come back on a Friday night with lots of friends and a few drinks under my belt.

The menu is fancy pub, not quite gastro – although it should be said I dined from the extensive bar menu only, there is a dining area off to the side with a more formal menu. We didn’t feel the need to go there however, with the bar options proving enticing enough. Offering a choice of “snacks” or “meals” I decided on a selection of the former as they all sounded pretty hearty.

A dish of slow roasted pork belly with hoisin and chilling dipping sauce featured some generous squares of meat for just $14.50, however the deceivingly crisp looking tops lacked the expected crackle when biting in – perhaps the victims of a longer than intended stint under the bain-marie? The body below perhaps slightly undercooked, the fat between the meat silky yet bountiful, I would have enjoyed it a touch more had it been melted down a tad.

It was harder to find fault with the chicken tenderloins with a chickpea, herb and yogurt salad and a relish mayo ($16). Three generous sticks of meat encased in a thick and crunchy crumb that gave way to an almost creamy mouth feel of chicken – although that could have been the fabulous accompaniments.

Other snacks include mini beef burgers, pumpkin and fetta arancini and house-made chicken dumplings and all are around the $14-$15 mark. Bar mains include staples such as parmigiana, steak, fish and chips and bangers and mash, with a few fancier options thrown in such as a vegetable tagine or pie floater (well … intriguing, if not exactly fancy …). All ranging from the early to late $20s.

The wine (beer and cider) list is solid, with drinks hailing from where they should (ie. Rieslings from Clare Valley, Chardys from the Morninginton and Bellarine Peninsulas and Margaret River), and a dedicated cellar list for those who want to splash out.   

I was there during a week day so I can’t say for sure yet if this place is pulling the crowds out of hours, but by crikey it has the capacity and the potential.

Location: 11 Dukes Walk, South Wharf (walk over Seafarers Bridge if coming from Docklands, or just continue past the Melbourne Convention Centre if approaching from Clarendon Street)

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