30 October, 2007

Hotel Lincoln

91 Cardigan Street, Carlton; 03 9347 4666

The Hotel Lincoln is one of Melbourne's best value eateries. In what can at times be a slightly confusing setup, they offer both bar food and a restaurant menu, with both available, via table service, in a kind of in-between room 'twixt the bar and glossier restaurant. The bar menu is under $20 and on Mondays is extraordinary value at $10 for each dish (this Monday just gone, however, was the last such Monday for the year unfortunately). The restaurant features slightly more glamorous dishes between $20-$30.

We savoured three samples from the bar menu. I'd tossed up against the chicken risotto with asparagus, but went for the whitebait hotcake with avocado and chilli jam. The visual presentation of this dish was wondeful. 'Hotcake' undersold this burger of whitebait, cunningly perched on a layer of avocado, then showered with mung beans, red chilli and fistfuls of fresh and refreshing coriander. The dish provided an ample amount of food, but without leaving a residual heaviness. Astonishing at $10.

The salted cod fritters took third place in the looks department, but they more than made up in flavour. Wonderfully cripsy balls (which took us all by surprise after the description as 'fritters) were filled with a creamy cod mousse. As a staple pub food, one would hope the bangers and mash at a place with a kitchen as commendable as the Hotel Lincoln's would be something special. These didn't disappoint. Two incredibly meaty pork sausages, studded with fennel seeds, were served on a wodge of spot-on creamy smooth mash.

In addition to this fabulous food is an extraordinary wine list. They offer six or so reds and whites each by the glass, and they are both carefully chosen and competitively priced - a Hugel Riesling blend for $6, Innocent Bystander Pinot Gris for $6.50, a Marlborough Sav Blanc and Gew├╝rz for around $7. They also do Te Whare Ra Gew├╝rztraminer, which is one of my favourite wines. The staff are friendly, knowledgable and the crowd, not surprisingly given they're in a place of good food and drink, are happy.

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