Station Hotel – Footscray
59 Napier Street
Footscray VIC 3011
(03) 9687 2913
Open: 7 days 11am – late
Everything I’d heard about the Station Hotel is true! Maybe even more than true… We feel as though we’ve stumbled upon a great Melbourne secret – we left our dinner there so replete and satisfied, with a quiet sense of awe that we’d just found a great neighbourhood pub that can do such amazing food. Were we just initiated into some sort of secret society – because now we know about it, and perhaps the rest of the world doesn’t?
But let me start from the beginning…
I had been recommended to go to the Station Hotel by a couple of different people over the last 12 months – usually in awed voices, with a “just go” urgency in their tone. But whenever the opportunity to go out, there just seemed to be another, slightly closer, more familiar gastropub to go to. So, it wasn’t until most excellent friends R & T were looking for a night out somewhere different that we managed to go. Although consensus was to go to a different venue, a well-known North Carlton steak bistro, it was closed until later in January. So, fate played its hand and we found ourselves here.
I would probably hesitate to use the word “gastropub” to describe the Station Hotel – because it clearly hasn’t bought into the linen tablecloth set, just letting the food speak for itself, food which veers very close to hatted territory. It still retains the spirit and character of a local watering hole, with a buzzing front bar section and a dining room. It has a very relaxed atmosphere, and plays host to groups, families and couples equally well. It wouldn’t be the place for a romantic date, and view wise it looks out onto busy, industrial Hyde and Footscray Roads – but that’s OK because the food deserves all your attention.
After being seated, we perused the menu – we all ordered different entrées, but for mains, the 250g tenderloin won out in 3 out of 4 cases – not much variety there. So, what did we all have…
I opted for the kingfish sashimi, but it was a close call with the chicken liver parfait or the octopus carpaccio featuring Moreton Bay bug. Our fantastically informative waiter, Daniel, went through the options with me. I asked how much bug meat came with the octopus carpaccio, and he responded “sweet FA” – I loved it – a frank, open and candid waiter! We were on a winner. When I asked about the parfait – he intimated that it was more of a sharing dish and might be a bit overwhelming for one. So I ended up ordering the kingfish sashimi.
The components were all there: fresh fish, pickled mushrooms, roe, spring onions – and the textures were great – especially the tempura sea urchin which was crunchy and then delivered melt-in-the-mouth ocean goodness. The roe added a different type of crunchiness, and the shitake mushrooms were tender and sharp, as was the thinly sliced cucumber. There was an amazingly intense piquancy to the dish – probably due to a combination of the mirin dressing and the pickled mushrooms – but I found it a little unbalanced, with the tart components tending to overwhelm the fish, which should have been the star.
Most excellent friend R ordered the charcuterie selection – and it was HUGE!! Definitely not for the faint of heart – there was lashings of meat covering the board. Apart from the spread of salami, prosciutto, braesola, and pepperoni on the base layer, there was also (clockwise from top left) spanish sopressa (which had a real kick), terrine de campagne (pork, veal and pistachio), chicken liver parfait, and onion jam.
Plate envy!!! You bet. Not so much with the cured meats – as I can take or leave them, but lovely R gave me a taste of the terrine and the parfait – and they were amazing!! The terrine had a sweetness to it, and was meaty and firm. The chicken liver parfait was incredibly flavourful and melt in the mouth. All of this is served with a plate of buttered, sourdough toasties!! So good! She did struggle through to the finish, and there were a couple of helpers along the way, so it could easily serve as a shared entrée – especially if you wanted to leave room for dessert!!
Most excellent friend T ordered the soup au pistou which was redolent with basil, tomatoes, pasta, peas and onions – he reflected that the pesto was really flavoursome, but not too overpowering.
And of course, Andrew had the onion soup – he thought it was good, and full of beef and onion flavour. However, he thought that it was served way too hot – even towards the end there was still a danger of third degree burns. To their credit – the waiting staff did warn that the soup was boiling hot – but if you think about it, that’s really too hot to serve.
After a short wait, the mains came through…
Our waiter was telling us that the hotel is trying to make sure that it has good non-steak options on its menu so that it doesn’t become pigeon-holed as a steakhouse. Being the only non-steak orderer in our group, I can tell you that the meal I had was amazing – and there are quite a few other intriguing options available on the menu.
Now, I want you to take some time out to actually click on the picture – so you can see a bigger view. How beautiful is this dish? I think if they called it Duck Wellington – it wouldn’t have been out of place, because basically, that’s what it was. At the core you had this gorgeously tender and moist duck breast, which had been encased in an earthy, duxelle mushroom paté. This was then wrapped in pancetta and then surrounded with a beautiful, buttery pastry – not too thick, and not too thin. Accompanying the duck was a mixture of roasted mushrooms, kipfler potatoes and asparagus, and set atop was a perfectly baked peach – sweet, yielding yet firm. This was then drizzled with a beautiful, glossy jus. A beautiful melody of flavours which all had their part, but let the duck be star. Well worth the detour on the steak driven menu.
And now… the parade of chargrilled tenderloins…
You had a choice of mash or chips with the steaks – and both were excellent examples of the versatility of the humble spud. The mash was buttery and creamy, so luscious in the mouth. And the chips were crispy and crunchy on the outside, and fluffy and soft on the inside! Perfection. As for the steaks themselves – well – let’s just say they are on par with the best Andrew’s tasted – which is saying something. Good meat!!
Also served on the side were these amazing sauces. The Béarnaise was thick and unctuous, with just the right levels of seasoning and sharpness. The pepper sauce, however, was the show stopper! It was thick and silky, with a stickiness that can only be achieved by making a stock with good bones, and letting it simmer for hours and hours. According to our waiter, the peppercorns are steeped in brine for weeks, before they’re reduced with the stock for hours and hours. The mixture is then enriched with cream and fresh herbs to produce this amazingly rich, flavourful, sticky sauce.
You know the sauce is good when people are eating it by itself!! Most excellent friend R lamented that there wasn’t enough meat to go with the sauce. Maybe the hotel needs to start serving extra serves of steak as a side dish!!
As you can see, the meals were very complete – you certainly didn’t have to order anything on the side, because you got everything you needed with your order. The meals were incredibly generous, both in terms of size and composition. The only extra thing you needed to order was your wine…
What did we drink? Well.. no surprises here – I had pinot noir, this time from TarraWarra winery in the Yarra Valley. Andrew had an amazing shiraz from Hesketh in the Coonawarra (Thirsty Dog, 2008) – it was smooth and delicious! Most excellent friend T had a more robust Heathcote shiraz from Red Claw winery in the Mornington Peninsula, while the lovely R started with a Campari and soda, and then moved on to pinot noir with me. All this for $165 per couple – we think it was a brilliant, great value night out!
We were very happy, very replete, very satisfied and very impressed! This is a remarkable neighbourhood gem – serving amazing food. Footscray locals are very lucky to have this on their doorstep – although they’re probably wishing people would stop talking about it!