Plough Hotel

www.ploughhotel.com.au 
333 Barkly Street, Footscray
(Corner of Geelong Rd & Barkly St)
(03) 9687 2878

I’ve been driving past this place for seven years, and never once desired to try it. Tuesday night parma and pot for $10, Candy the Clown on Sundays. No thanks. Then about a year ago the place shut down with a promise on the takeaway blackboard that they would reopen “soon”. Finally a couple of months ago there were signs of life, a new coat of paint outside, hints of cool new lighting inside. The Plough was back.

One rainy Thursday night about month after their grand opening, we wrapped up warm and ventured out. The parking is limited around this part of Footscray but we found a spot beside Mitre 10 on the Prince’s Highway (their car park takes about a dozen cars).

Inside, the bistro area was busy enough, with people perched on bar stools drinking and eating at high tables. The pale wooden floors and modern bistro lighting invited us further in, to the restaurant where we were shown to a window table and offered a drink.

The menu was relatively short but there was plenty to choose from: I’d call it posh pub grub mostly, with a decent list of pizzas too. The drinks list has a respectable choice of beers, but as non-beer-drinkers we satisfied ourselves with a couple of glasses of red from the short but well-chosen wine list, and some Mount Gay rum for my dining companion, served straight up with no mistakes (unusual in this town).

For starters we chose a plate of “sticky buffalo wings” to share. These were a little disappointing: well cooked for sure, but a little lacking in the crispy-roasted-skin department. Too pale and slippery for our liking.

For main course I was tempted by the fancy chicken parma (gypsy ham, mozzarella, beer batter chips) but we both opted for the burger: made from veal and heaped with caramelised onion, fresh tomato, a slice of good cheddar and a garlic aioli. The Plough is not too posh to offer tomato ketchup either. What a plateful of food. You need more than two hands to tackle the burger (I gave up, took the lid off and carved it up in the end) and the chips were plentiful and nicely cooked.

We certainly enjoyed our first experience at the Plough, and ventured back a few weeks later on a Friday night. We were recognised and greeted by our original waiter like old friends which was a nice touch. It was much busier that evening and they were doing a blistering trade.

Our starter was a shared plate of calamari with lime and chilli, which was perfect and not too huge a portion. Sadly our friendly waiter got my main course wrong – I was served another burger instead of a steak sandwich – but I wasn’t that fussed and didn’t bother having it changed. A complimentary glass of wine appeared by way of apology. Orlando’s Gippsland T-bone steak was perfectly cooked and generously proportioned. Another enjoyable evening that didn’t break the bank, we agreed.

By chance I noticed a couple of days later that we had actually been charged a little over $355 for our modest evening meal. We returned and a refund was arranged quickly and without fuss.

All in all, there are still a few rough edges to the service but none of it has put us off our new local eatery. We are looking forward to spring and summer when we can stroll down there of an evening – and I am looking forward to our next visit when I shall try their pizza.

 

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>The European

>The European is a bit of a Melbourne institution, and I’ve loved it ever since I lived here for six months way back in 1998. The long, darkly-lit, wooden interior reminds me of all the best Spanish, Italian and French bars I’ve eaten in, and it is a great antithesis to the classic Melbourne eateries we are used to.

So Mena and I found ourselves having breakfast there last Friday morning. It was an auspicious date: twenty-six years to the day since she and Lee left Ireland to travel to Australia, and the spring equinox to boot. We were on a bookstore crawl to celebrate Mena’s birthday the month before.

We sat in the back near the kitchen hatch, and settled in with two glasses of bone-dry champagne to get us in the mood. The staff are supremely professional, but started off a bit cold but perhaps it was just the time of day. They ended up being lovely.

My eggs benedict was divine, accompanied at my request with some grilled portobello mushrooms. Mena chanced the Croque Madame, worried that she might be disappointed, but she was also delighted. The champagne flowed, as did Mena’s long macchiatos and my Earl Grey tea. Our waiter complimented Mena on her “double-beveraging” when she ordered fresh coffee.

Almost two hours and almost a bottle of champagne later, we finally prised ourselves from our table to get on with the bookstore-crawling. We could have stayed there all day, chatting and nibbling. Why can’t we start the day with breakfast at the European every day?

Little Bay

>Little Bay, 171 Farringdon Road, London EC1

This little restaurant is a true find. Situated close to the Exmouth Market area, it offeres incredibly good value and excellent.

The décor is simple and the basement not to be recommended due to the loud echo effect, but if you are looking for beautifully prepared fresh ingredients with a good wine list to boot, this is the place for you.

I can recommend the chips which are cooked in duck fat in true south of France style.

There are branches in Battersea and Kildurn/Belsize Park too!