91 Cardigan Street,
Carlton VIC 3053
03 9347 4666
Open: 7 days for lunch & dinner
Is this the best gastropub in Melbourne? I know… a question that will probably raise a few eyebrows, and have a few people ready to argue. But I’m here to tell you – it’s a fantastic place – one that Andrew and I keep going back to and are never disappointed. It looks a bit unassuming, doesn’t it… but Hotel Lincoln delivers in spades.
We happened upon the Lincoln a couple of years ago – basically because it was in the Entertainment book and we thought we should try it out. Since then, it’s become our favourite local gastropub! It helps that it’s only a short walk from home, but the service is top notch, the food is stellar – and they do the most amazing charcuterie and steaks you could ever hope for. In fact, Andrew uses the Lincoln as his benchmark for all steaks… I think it may be his ezard!!
The Head Chef is Ross Beeley, who has worked under Michael Lambie and Neil Perry. He chooses fantastic produce and then works hard to bring out the best in it. The menu is constantly changing, testimony to his adherence to seasonal produce – however, there are some favourites that stay on the menu all year round – including the grass fed Gippsland beef which is amazing, and the charcuterie dishes – all cured and prepared in-house.
Leading the front of house team is restaurant manager, Leo Espino, who is always amenable and good fun, and tonight we also have the dynamic Jock serving us – the service is friendly and relaxed, and we’re always assured of being well looked after. For those who would like a bit more hustle and bustle – you can also dine in the front bar. There is a chalkboard of specials available in there – but our favourite is always the restaurant.
You know – I’ve only recently come to appreciate steak tartare – and it was the Lincoln that did it to me. Sure, I used to taste some when others have ordered it – but I had never ordered my own before. Until the Lincoln… about 18 months ago. This tartare was a revelation to me – and today it is no different. It is perfectly seasoned, has a fantastic balance of condiments – and is served with the uncompromisable egg yolk and toasties!
My question: Is this the best tartare in Melbourne? So far, dear readers – I have to say “yes”. Although – have no qualms – I will not rest in my quest to see if there’s anything better out there – but the benchmark has been set (and a number of friends have sampled the goods and agree) – it’s pretty fantastic! Sorry – VERY fantastic. My only problem – Ross took it off the menu during winter!!! Ross – leave it on – it’s toooooo good!!
Andrew LOVES chorizo – and this is one of his favourite dishes in the world. I don’t think he actually orders any other entrée… One of the choices from the many well executed charcuterie offerings – it is gorgeously meaty, fatty and spicy, and well balanced by the tartness of the apple salad. A perennial favourite!
Other charcuterie dishes definitely worth trying are the duck rillettes served with port wine prunes (one of my favourites) as well as the chicken liver parfait served with cornichons. Again – I think you would be hard pressed to find better around town.
Last time I was here – I had an amazing hapuka fillet with skordalia, served with a grapefruit and fennel salad – it was amazing. Alas – the menu has changed and the hapuka is no longer available! However, I was not disappointed with this dish – the kingfish was firm and sweet, beautifully cooked so that it had tender, flaking flesh, and a crispy, salty skin. I wasn’t sure about teaming it with the more robust flavours of chorizo, garlic and pumpkin – but each component just exploded in your mouth delivering it’s own signature essence, not competing with each other at all, but rather complementing each other smoothly, intermingling on the palate in a montage of rambuctuous flavours.
And here it is – the steak that sets the bar – the gold standard of all steaks. Char-grilled, 21 day aged, grass feed beef – this is where Andrew takes a bite, just stops, looks at me and says: “And that’s why this is the best steak in Melbourne!”. When asked to elaborate, he says: It’s always cooked perfectly, just the way I like it. The meat is not sinewy – and the texture is the same all the way through, consistent – even though it’s quite a big chunk of meat!” He’s in his happy place now… especially when I offer to eat half his beans and give him a couple of slices of chorizo in exchange! Heaven!
Complementing this gastronomical feast is the brilliant wine list – which goes on and on! Being a Pinot lover – I always have a couple of glasses of the Punt Road, and Andrew enjoys the more robust red, Frankland Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. However, beyond the great wines by the glass there are plenty of bottles and vintages to choose from.
Hotel Lincoln is an amazing pub – it’s more than a neighbourhood gem, it’s a marvel. It’s one of those places you’re not sure you want to tell everybody about – in case it means you won’t get a table there next time you go – but we’ll take our chances. It’s a great Melbourne secret… that deserves every success. Go on and walk in – you won’t be sorry.