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The Courthouse Hotel

  • Restaurants
  • North Melbourne
  • price 2 of 4
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. The newly renovated interior of The Courthouse gastropub.
    Photograph: Emily Weaving
  2. Bowl of mushroom pappardelle and glass of wine.
    Photograph: Emily Weaving
  3. The Courthouse Hotel street view with blue sky in the background.
    Photograph: Emily Weaving
  4. Octopus dish.
    Photograph: Emily Weaving
  5. Chicken schnitzel with chips, slaw and a pot of beer.
    Photograph: Emily Weaving
  6. Table and chairs with art deco lamp.
    Photograph: Emily Weaving

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

A North Melbourne institution with two hats in its past has just reopened as a British-inspired gastropub – and locals are loving it

While pubs that start from scratch have a fresh slate to work upon, the newly renovated Courthouse Hotel has had big shoes to fill since it reopened: its own. Here’s a venue that proudly earned two hats back in its heyday, once one of the most popular watering holes for great gastropub fare in North Melbourne. While it’s suffered a chapter or two of neglect since, new owners have recently swooped in to restore the restaurant to its former glory. So do they succeed? We booked a table to find out. 

At the end of a long work day, the trek through North Melbourne’s bitter wind tunnels is rough on our spirits, but the merry warmth of the Courthouse proves a powerful escape. It’s buzzing with energy, stirring a sense of nostalgia for the old great pubs of Britain. The Art Deco building retains much of its original charm and wood panelling, with the added sparkle of fresh renovations across both storeys. It’s all curves and round edges, from the mirrors to the walls, the plants and the paintings – an exceptionally comfy space in which to dine and drink.

The bar team is quick to look after us, going above and beyond to offer us different beer tastings and ask about our preferences. They’re charming us head over heels and we haven’t even sat down yet; the brownie points are fast stacking up. After being escorted to our table by a homey crackling fireplace upstairs, another friendly youth comes to take our orders and, having heard about a famous Lancashire hotpot, I enquire about its whereabouts on the menu. A lentil dish appears to be missing, too. We’re a little dismayed to hear they’ve been swapped out, but also impressed to learn about the kitchen’s willingness to make changes based on customer feedback and availability of produce. This sort of responsive dynamism in the Courthouse’s initial months is, undoubtedly, a good thing.

It’s a concise one-pager menu, divided into small plates, mains and desserts. Seasonal vegetables and ethically sourced produce stand out in classics like coq au vin for two, juicy grilled steaks and daily handmade pastas. A separate wine list that focuses on natural and minimal-intervention producers is better than what you’d get at most neighbourhood pubs, but the selection of beer is right up our alley so we decide to stick to the hoppy drops. Beers on tap include brews from Hop Nation and CBCo, and there’s also a selection of English-style ales behind the bar in keeping with the nod to traditional British pub culture. 

We start with focaccia, which is fluffy, light and served with a little bowl of peppery Heritage Grove olive oil on the side. Golden-fried goat cheese croquettes arrive next, with garlicky quince aioli, pistachio and pickled shallot. They’re crunchy on the outside and creamy and soft on the inside, and with a frosty pint in hand, a match made in heaven – the holy grail of beer snacks. 

Next, we try the kangaroo carpaccio decorated with wafer-thin Jerusalem artichoke, which is much less gamey than we anticipated and light on the palate. Maybe too light. But you can taste the ingredients are of an exquisite quality, and it’s refreshing to be able to pick up on the subtler earthy notes in the fresh meat and the lemon-tinged verdancy of the sorrel. Dressed up with too much pizzazz, they’d be undetectable. 

Though the selection of mains tempts us with more than a few options, we can’t resist a hearty and comforting schnitzel, a thick, crumbed chicken breast from Loddon Estate. Shards of salt on the formidable bird may look like sharp flecks of ice, but it’s steaming hot and juicy. The gravy to accompany is so light and watery, it’s almost translucent. More like a thin jus than the rich gravy we’d hoped for, it falls short in sufficiently coating and flavouring the giant bird. Interestingly, there’s also something heartwarming about it, like a simple pan juice gravy you might remember from your childhood. Maybe that’s what they were going for, but it would be nice to have a bigger jug of it.

The pork and fennel sausages arrive on a generous bed of polenta and cavolo nero, surrounded by a moat of lip-smacking jus. They’re tender and almost crumbly, lighting up our synapses with herbs, spice and everything savoury and nice. For sides, we select the charred corn with miso butter and charred greens with tamarind. A somewhat bizarre Asian detour from the rest of the pub’s British-inspired menu, it nevertheless works. The corn’s an unanticipated delight – smoky, buttery and creamy, lifted by the fermented funk of the miso. Even the fries that come with the schnitzel taste earthy and disarmingly familiar, more like actual potatoes than chips. It’s not easy to find homestyle, understated pub fare like this in Melbourne, and we’re impressed. Here, the fresh produce gets to do all the talking.

Dessert ends on a high note, a warm banana pudding served with rum and raisin ice cream. It’s so comforting it makes our work-wearied shoulders drop with relief, and we’d go back just for another bite of this blissful treat alone. 

While the Courthouse Hotel’s menu may benefit from a few small adjustments, there’s plenty to love about what’s on offer: the care applied to the design of the space, a genuine service experience with bar staff who know their beers, and a sense of culinary ambition unrivalled by many other locals. The kitchen’s approach may not suit palates that demand punchier pub grub flavours, but the impeccable humility and attention to detail behind the whole operation makes a strong impression. If the Courthouse continues to nurture the relationship with its loyal flock of locals in the same way it’s doing now, only the best awaits round the corner.

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Lauren Dinse
Written by
Lauren Dinse


86-90 Errol St
North Melbourne
Opening hours:
Mon-Sun from 12pm
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