As I walked into Public House on a Thursday night, it felt really strange not to have my dancing shoes on and be pumped with a few pre-drinks. To me, and many of my friends, this grungy meets chic bar and pub in Richmond has always been a place to drink, to dance, or in my case to also have a few bad Tinder dates. I can honestly say that is had never crossed my mind to eat there until I was invited to come and try the food on offer as the pub tries to let Melbourne know that they do offer a lot more than just pub grub.
There was a lot to like about my dining experience at Public House. The staff were friendly, casual and fun and proud of the work they do there. The waitress was more than happy to send out a range of the food they were most proud of on the menu, and I really got the impression that they do love the food they serve, and the food choices were fantastic and so unexpected.
I wouldn’t say I was expecting a parma, but I was definitely expecting food that was a little more ‘pub grub’ than the delicious tapas style sharing dishes we started with; this is definitely where the venues strength lies on their menu. I must apologise for the photos in this blog post, as with very limited lighting due to the romantic ‘ambience’ in the dining area, the photos didn’t turn out as great as I would have hoped… I promise the food looked beautiful in real life.
The Tempura battered zucchini flowers filled with persian feta and mint were executed well- a crunchy batter and hint of mint that cut through the heaviness of the feta. I have long been a fan of zucchini flowers and will always order them, so I was happy that this was chosen as one of the dishes we were to try.
I found the Southern Fried Chicken with jalapeno mayonnaise surprising- Fried Chicken is such an ‘it’ thing at the moment and I felt like I was eating it everywhere, but this one was delightful. The coating was not greasy in the slightest, crispy and light, and we couldn’t get enough of the thick, mild jalapeno mayonnaise served with it.
The stand out dish was absolutely the soft shell crab tacos, with corn and avocado salsa and kewpie mayonnaise. Soft shell crab is another dish that is ‘oh so in’ right now, and it was my second serving that day but I loved it. The tortillas were perfect texturally and stuffed with juicy crab and zesty, fresh salsa. I would eat these again any day of the week!
We were so stuffed from our entrees that we could only try one main from the extensive list, and that was the ricotta gnocchi with roasted pumpkin, walnuts, shaved parmesan and basil oil. I really liked the texture of the gnocchi and the flavours were great but both me and my dining partner felt something was lacking, and the dish was a little dry. I don’t know whether using a creamier cheese like a goats cheese would add some creaminess to the dish, or a little more olive oil to coat the ingredients but it felt like a warm gnocchi salad to us, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing but wasn’t what we were expecting having read the description.
The desserts were also impressive, and above and beyond what I would expect from a pub. I enjoyed the rhubarb and frangipani tart with soft meringue and vanilla bean ice cream, but it was heavier than what I like in a dessert, and was completely smitten over the other dessert; a Chocolate and Nutella pave with saffron pear and marscapone, which absolutely rocked my world! Almost like a chocolate mousse cake, it was rich in taste but texturally light. Both of the desserts were very generous servings and I would recommend sharing one between two… and my pick would be the choccie one for sure!
Despite the really enjoyable and surprising food, there is still areas that can be finetuned before I think Public House can prove to all patrons that they really are more than just ‘pub grub’. The dining area itself is beautiful- little candlelit tables with beautiful crockery and white tablecloths oppose the grungy concrete walls, however this was let down by the use of white butcher paper on the tables on top of the table cloth, something which I personally think immediately cheapens the dining experience.
It also is hard to forget that you are in a pub that attracts your typical crowd of knock off drinkers, and I can imagine this would be the same case on a weekend. The familiar smell of hops from the beer keg, and the crowds of people having a few beers only metres away make it hard to forget where you are- once again, this is not necessarily a bad thing, as it is a pub after all but for this reason for a romantic date (or a bad Tinder date) I would recommend asking to be seated at the back of the dining area away from all this.
What Public House does extremely well in its front casual dining area, in combination with its menu, is that it offers a place to have a few beers with mates or work colleagues and be able to indulge in food that is a few steps above a bowl of chips or a parma. The casual atmosphere of a pub environment can be enjoyed, but one can order some soft shell crab tacos, or zucchini flowers, or delicious Southern Fried Chicken as a more indulgent and sophisticated food to be enjoyed along with their drink.
Please note: Foodie Melbourne dined as a guest of Public House, but all opinions are genuine.
Have a delicious day,