Posts Categorized: Restaurants

What next for St Kilda and the Dog’s Bar?

Dog's Bar

Has St Kilda lost its mojo as a destination or has the rest of Melbourne caught up? As I write this the Dog’s Bar is ten minutes from re-opening (at 4pm October 2 2014) under a new manager and what was Slow Down at Harley Court is now The Nelson, a cool looking rum bar, that opens on October 17 at 4pm I see the story of St Kilda’s decline and potential for rejuvenation as the story of the Dogs Bar, where the former owner operator of 12 years was kicked out for reasons you can read about here. Once St Kilda was the place to be. Circa The Prince with its white leather banquettes was the hottest restaurant in Melbourne. The Melbourne Wine Room at the George was bustling. It has since changed owners twice. St Kilda is currently without Donovans and the Stokehouse, both recent victims of fire. Donovans is closed till after Christmas and the Stokehouse has moved to the city until it can be rebuilt. The Dog’s Bar was once a casual dining destination, but the quality of service and food declined while the rest of Melbourne caught up and became better places to eat and drink. My affair with the Dog’s dates back to my moving around the corner to it in June 2000 after four years in Sydney. On any Friday night four couples from four houses in the street would go there with friends. There may be 10 to 20 of us depending on the night, drinking, eating and smoking. I can remember crisp service, reasonably priced and decent food and booze. And then a year later the brewing giant Lion Nathan bought it. These were the days before you could buy craft beer in a bottle let alone on tap in a pub or bar. Friday night was VB (or Carlton Draught) o’clock until Lion took over the beer taps. Lion Nathan with a loyal beer drinking base in NSW was trying to take the Carlton and United Breweries stronghold of Melbourne by buying up pubs including the Dog’s Bar, Bimbo Deluxe and a few more. They failed and their Melbourne boss David Carruthers, as the story was told at the time, negotiated the Dog’s Bar as part of his exit payment. All continued as normal with Becks on tap which tasted pretty good in 2001. By the time I temporarily left… Read more »

Acland St Cantina’s Mexican food in 30 minutes

acland-st-cantina-pork-taco-pineapple

Me: Where’s the rosé come from? Waiter: Australia. Me: Where in Australia? Waiter: Somewhere in the south west I think. The staff are young, friendly and helpful at the Acland St Cantina, the latest outpost of the Melbourne Pub Group in the basement of what was once the Prince Wine Store and Mink cocktail bar. There’s no complaints there. Some of them even speak a second language – English – and as noted by @winebybrad on Twitter can even narrow a wine region down to the nearest 2 million sq km. Pretty much everything has been shifted in the basement. The Prince Wine Store and the front end of Mink have become a diner-style tacoteria, sorry tacqueria, and bar. In the backend two of the famous private booths remain (but without curtains) in a room given a rustic feel and a complete makeover. For now the group’s kitchen overlord Paul Wilson is assembling the food and it’s good. Very good for casual Mexican. And based on a December visit to its sibling, it is much better than at the Newmarket where standards appear to have slipped. I dived into the Magarita ($16 each) of the day while my girlfriend tried a disappointingly sweet and bland summer spritz ($16) of Aperol, watermelon liquor, lemon juice and moscato. The wine list is mainly Spanish and South American with some terrific value (unlike the Newmarket where bottles start at around $70) starting at $35 and mostly costing under $60. Wines by the glass are either from a generic tap – bianco, rosso, rose, NV sparkling – with two available from the bottle. Unfortunately my headline is an exaggeration. Our first order was ceviche which arrived promptly and comprised tiny discs of protein. The remainder all arrived at the same time meaning we’d pretty much eaten everything 20 minutes after arriving. The Baja fried fish tacos (below) with slaw and chipotle mayo we hoovered down, hungry for more. And the authentic Al pastor tacos of spit roasted pork with a pineapple salsa were way more-ish. The red mole (that’s a thick Mexican sauce made with over 30 ingredients rather than a blind burrowing animal) with the current vogue brand of goat from Tallarook (below) was too heavy for a summers night and is perhaps worth a revisit come winter. 20 minutes in my current ex wife arrived at another table and we advised her… Read more »