Inside our Pub of the Year beats the heart of a casual diner and the palate of a wine bar. That’s why we love it so much
Pubs are, by their very nature, relics of times past. We imported them from Britain, and to this day their core values remain the same: good booze, hot meals, ace banter and good times. The majority of us might not be slaving down at the quarries any longer, but even nine-to-fivers with white-collar hands want nothing more than to sink a cold beer after a long day of data entry.
As a result it takes a deft touch to update a pub without ruining it, but at the Lincoln, they slipped in the excellent wine list, an exciting collection of craft brews and a bistro menu that wouldn’t look out of place on white linen with candle light with surgically precise service. Nothing that people loved about this historic Carlton pub, which was established in 1854, has been disturbed, and the new features seem like they’ve always been there.
Forget the teeth-meltingly acidic sauv blancs that used to pass as a house pour. Here, you can get a grassy yellow Western Australian gewurtz riesling that is light, fresh and floral, or maybe an oaky chardonnay from Beechworth made with indigenous yeasts. This is a pub with wine bar sensibilities. Publican Iain Ling even bought himself a nifty corkscrew that lets him pour glasses from individual bottles by piercing the cork, but not opening it.
Lock and load a glass of South Australian pinot noir from natural wine champions Gentle Folk and get ready for the pub steak to rule them all. It’s a 200g dry-aged sirloin from Cape Grim, and that juicy, grassy, savouriness only increases in intensity when you add Café de Paris butter. Just as good is the snow white pork cutlet encased in a crunchy panko armour with mushrooms, a sweet tonkatsu sauce and fat chips – it’s a little bit German, a little bit Japanese and a winter-bustin’ cracker of a counter meal.
Their snack game is strong too. Start any visit with the light-as-air and extra crunchy corn crackers (like a prawn cracker) topped with spanner crab. You know a pub has their bistro in order when they offer a tasting menu – you can go the half Lincoln for $45pp for five dishes from head chef Howard Stamp’s menu, or the full for $65 for eight.
And just when you were thinking this place doesn’t really sound like a pub, we get to the 12 beer taps that never stay the same. On one visit you might smash a local witbier from Stomping Ground or something tart and fruity, like a Boatrocker raspberry Berliner weisse. Next time round those kegs will be empty and something new and exciting will be on offer. They even dabble in a little brewing themselves, in conjunction with Craft and Co.
Getting the mix of old and new right is a tough balancing act, but at the Lincoln they’re as sure footed as a Cirque Du Soleil acrobat, which means we get to smash natural wines sitting up at an Art Deco bar with the footy on behind us and a steak on the way. That’s why the Lincoln was our Pub of the Year for 2017.
|Venue name:||The Lincoln|
91 Cardigan St
|Opening hours:||Sun-Thu noon-11pm; Fri, Sat noon-midnight|