Melbourne's best pub roasts
Why do we subject ourselves to a full roast on scorching-hot Christmas days? The kitchen crew at the Great Northern Hotel in Carlton North – quite rightly – believe that festive feast is best savoured on cooler days. Which is why you might get served roast turkey breast with cranberry sauce, vegetables and sauteed pine mushrooms in the middle of May. And the best part? You can drink as many pints as you like and you don’t have to deal with your mad old aunty.
When you call up this Fitzroy neighbourhood fave to ask what the day’s roast is, don’t be surprised if the answer is a tad vague. We were greeted with, “I’m not sure yet, but it’s always changing, and it’s always delicious.” Correct on two points, Mr Marquis. That particular weekend, this cosy backstreet pub was dishing out slow-cooked lamb shoulder with golden kipflers, a savoury lick of gravy and a bitter note from the charred radicchio. But the Marquis’ real stunner is available full-time: half a roast chicken served with lentil-studded jus and the kind of artery-hardening mash that has a butter to spud ratio of 1:1. Better than most city brasseries, at half the price.
You could practically hear the collective squeal across Collingwood when the Grace Darling announced the return of its Sunday Roast. Grace’s weekly feast is served in an Insta-perfect cast-iron pot brimming with wintry veg and quality meats, such as saltbush lamb rump or medium-rare beef. With its fireplace and live bands, winter hangs don’t get much better than this.
With its beaten leather couches downstairs and communal tables on the rooftop (don’t worry, they pull the awning over when the weather’s not playing ball), the Local in St Kilda has that hard-to-fake lived-in vibe that cries out for a long lunch. You’ll need a couple of hours, too, if you plan on ordering the roast lamb shoulder to share – a football-sized heft of fork-tender meat. It comes with some token broccolini stems and a few chunks of pumpkin, but you’ll want to order more sides to balance all that flesh. Better yet, book the ‘Host a Roast’ lunch for ten pals in a private dining space, for a blow-out banquet with all the trimmings.
There’s more to the Napier Hotel than the gargantuan bogan burger (you know, that head-sized assembly of steak, chicken schnitzel, bacon, egg and potato cake). This historic boozer in the backstreets of Fitzroy also does one helluva weekend roast. Grab a seat by the fire in the art-filled dining room for the weekly special, perhaps rolled pork belly with high decibel crackling, caramelised figs, charred broccolini, pumpkin, potatoes, braised cabbage and a little jug of herby cider gravy. Pure comfort.
When it comes to bang for your buck, the Wolf and I in Windsor howls down the competition. On Sundays, $20 buys you a plate stacked high with meat and veg, perhaps tender roast pork with apple crisps, cheesy cauliflower bake, roast broccoli, a hunk of pumpkin, sweet potato puree, carrots, potatoes and a standalone sheet of glass-like crackling. That’s your seven-a-day in one delicious package. Oh, and it comes with a side order of live music. Available from 5pm until sold out, so don’t dawdle.
Just as the chintzy, all-new furnishings are a far cry from the beaten interiors of most local watering holes, the North Melbourne Hotel’s menu takes a devil-may-care approach to roasts. There’s the crisp-skinned chicken with sticky-sweet jus and a tangy jumble of avocado, tomato and red onion for $24. Or the 12-hour lamb shoulder that serves two to three with flatbreads, mint salsa and labne for $78. If you really want to go all-out, book the communal table and pre-order the whole suckling pig for 12 – it’ll set you back $800 including a slew of sides.
Why should Sunday be roast day, you ask? If your roast craving strikes midweek, the Wayside Inn in South Melbourne has got your back with their Tuesday night $19 rotisserie special. Skip the ho-hum chicken, chips and ’slaw (which, frankly, is on par with your local chicken shop) in favour of the stuffed pork shoulder with standout crackling, apple sauce and a slab of potato and fennel gratin.
When you’re feeling nostalgic for Nanna’s roast, get yourself down to the Exchange Hotel in Port Melbourne for the Sunday Roast Collection. From midday until sold out, $20 buys you a choice of three meats (pork loin, lamb shoulder or beef silverside on our visit) with the classic counter-meal accoutrements of carrots, peas, parsnip and potatoes. Serviceable and sturdy, it tastes like childhood, right down to the fluoro green mint jelly spooned straight from the jar.