Buongiorno, bonjour and “g’day”! (don't you like how they're all the same thing? ~ who knew Australian vernacular was so cosmopolitan???).

Also, "a good day to you, sir/maam" for our American pals, "Ni Hao" to China, and "Здравствуй" to our Russian comrades, "etcetera etcetera and so forth"... (for Yul Brynner).

It’s your old pal Kit (Christof) Fennessy here. I've been writing this blog with your help for ten years, and there's over a hundred and fifty recipes, restaurant reviews of Australia and around the world, and general gourmet articles in these pages for you to fritter away your idle hours on.

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Now, what's on the bill of fare today?

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Newmarket Hotel

34 Inkerman St
St Kilda

I like beer. Do you like beer? Yeah, I like beer too. Food? I like food. Do you like food? Me too! We should hang out more. Here, try this...

If you like food, beer, and hanging out, the Newmarket Hotel could very well be the place for you. The old pub famous for its "Schnitz and Tits" nights - featuring schnitzels, topless waitresses and strippers - no longer. The minds behind the Albert Park and Middle Park Hotel bought it and renovated it. They've kept the facade, ripped down the pub and put up a monument to South America. Shall we go in and take a look?

First stop, the where. St Kilda. I've got to admit I'm a North of the River boy. Abbotsford and Fitzroy are my main stomping grounds, with a quick diversion to la cita. But occassionally, the siren song of the south calls and I find myself in Sydney... I mean St Kilda. Same place, n'est pas? Not on your life. This is the cool part of St Kilda, the back bit, out the side, the gritty Melbourne-esque part of St Kilda which almost makes you want to move there. Let's call it St Kilda East.

Before I go on, I have to show my hand. This is a CJ McKenzie inspired review. It was his night off and he suggested we get down there and check it out, and I've got to admit it was worth the trip. But I might be biased because of the company.

The renovation is tasteful; you can tell it's the same architects that did the Public House in Richmond. But they've started doing things that little bit better with practice. Like functional bars, and heaters that recess into the walls.

The menu? "Californian inspired Hispanic menu". What does that mean? Tapas? Apparently not. Portions are too big for one. Share plates still, and featuring things like soft tacos with prawns, or slow roasted pork.

Oh! And they've got a really big table opposite the kitchen that you can book for functions. Handy if you want to go out with more than eight people to something. Like your family...

The crowd is a bit older at this pub. I guess the prices may have pushed the back packers down to the intersection with Alma Rd (or whatev's - it's St Kilda, I don't know my way around), so definitely a pick up place for recent divorcees. But it's a nice combination. Relaxed dining, good architecture, tasty yet simple food with a twist of spice and BOOZE. Lovely booze. Thank heavens I was there on St Patrick's day and was allowed to have a tipple.

Meanwhile - with the reno - the builders have apparently built a space underneath that has exactly the same (massive) open area floor space. It's mooted to be opened in about six months, with a catwalk down the middle and available for fashion shows, weddings, laid back love ins and what have you. You'll be catching a lift down the side to a subterranean cool-oire.

Score? It's not fine dining, and you'll need to book a table as they stop letting people in without reservations, but it's honest, tasty, and friendly... and one of my relatives is high profile there and buys me drinks. I give it a seven tentacles out of eight.