It might look like a tiny German castle, or maybe an elaborate British firehouse, but inside the Woodlands Hotel it’s an all Victorian party, all the time. Seriously, these guys are walking the walk when it comes to local produce. On our visit the tap list is primed with a house lager, a pale from Cavalier in Derrimut and a raspberry wheat beer from Bareside’s Boatrocker, but we fall hard for the mango gose from Footscray’s Hop Nation that has all the fruity sweetness on the nose of a Daiquiri, but that bracing savoury salinity you get with this German-style beer.
The bottled beer list widens their territory, adding beers from Two Birds, Three Ravens, Hawkers, Edge, Bridge Rd, Hargreaves Hill and La Sirène to the hit list, and the wine list deep-dives on drops from Mornington, Yarra, Pyrenees, Strathbogie Ranges, and Heathcote. It’s more Victorian than a VFL premiership in here.
And you can bet your bootstraps that their local focus extends to the kitchen where they’re using all Victorian produce. But the flavours... well, that’s another story entirely, because the Woodlands Hotel is also doing the best pub curry in town. A pub meal doesn’t not necessitate Anglo comfort food here, because they are slow cooking beef in a thick, fragrant, Mauritian-style curry sauce that’s spiked with whole fennel seeds, sweet onions, fresh curry leaves and coriander. They have it on the snacks menu, but it’s a full sized meal with a hot, soft roti on the side, and an even heartier repast if you add a side of rice for two dollars.
Staying off the beaten track is what they do here. You can get fried saganaki cheese with rockmelon and pickled watermelon, the ubiquitous burrata on a bed of heavily dressed tomatoes, and mussels in a green curry sauce. It’s a real grab bag of influences: they’re putting taleggio and salami on their parma, mac’n’cheese with their pork chop and Persian fetta with their cuttlefish. They’re thinking global and sourcing local.
And aside from anything else, it’s a good place to kick back and shoot the shit. The timber-lined public bar has lofty ceilings to stop it feeling too close on a balmy arvo, and out the back there’s a cathedral-like atrium filled with house plants. Upstairs it’s a whole different ball game – they’ve got a Russian-Oriental theme going on with lanterns, ketchup red walls, dark leather booths and a dedicated steak menu. It’s wild.
We’re flush with ace eating spots in Melbourne’s pub capitals. Fitzroy is a full-time pub party and in South Melbourne you can play Frogger between bar stools, but in Coburg they’re lighter on the ground. Luckily their top dog is a doozy, and worth battling Sydney Road for.