31 May, 2009

Provincial Hotel: $10 pie and pot

299 Brunswick St, Fitzroy; 03 9810 0042

I love a mid-week deal. We headed to the Provincial Hotel for the inaugural run of their $10 pie and pot. The pie options cater to the red-, white- and non-meaters: there's steak, chicken and mushroom, or pumpkin (and feta?). The pot of choice is Boags Draught (beats Carlton at least).

The Provincial is one of those shabby-chic places - all distressed concrete outside, and a brooding, quirky interior of dark wood, with a sloping crimson bar fronted by wrought-iron stools. The sign advertising the pie and pot also spruiked an open fire, which coupled well with visions of splitting open a pastry case to reveal a steaming interior of meat and veg in thick gravy.

Well, not quite. Here's the steak pie:
The casing is in fact puff pastry rather than shortcrust. They've missed a trick there: it seems so obvious me to match a pot with a pot pie. The sign didn't say puff pastry parcel and pot (though, with that much alliteration, it might have got me in regardless). The steak filling was a little wanting, but the chicken and mushroom filling was lovely, though not lovely enough to make up for the lack of shortcrust.

You may notice two things about the piccie above: a) the chips on the plate and b) it's not the sexiest plate of food ever presented. The chips come via the pot and pie upgrade: for $3 you get mashed potatoes, chips or salad on the side. I'm always a bit put off by the mid-week deal that then offers you a bit more for a bit more, because I immediately feel like I'm getting less. See, if I go for a $10 deal that's all I'm going to spend, there's no upgrading. But the optional, paid extra just highlights that you and the restaurant are doing something a bit on the cheap. And when it comes out on the plate looking that ordinary, it doesn't help.

I understand the establishment is offering a special deal, but their purpose presumably is to increase bums on seats on the quiet nights. If I got a great plate of food - pie plus chips or a simple salad, I'd have a fuzzy feeling indeed about the pub, and make a mental note for the next Wednesday night I was looking for somewhere to go. If the side orders aren't doable for a tenner, why not make it an $11 or $12 pie and pot, meet your margins and get people back in for a second go?

The evening ended, however, with inspiration. I'd heard gushing reports of the Provincial's tiramisu, which is only available from the cafe area, rather than the bar. Turns out, they do their desserts to takeaway, and with 'Spicks and Specks' time looming, we decided to make a dash for home with dessert stashed for some decent couch time.

'Huge' doesn't come close to telling the story of this tiramisu. And even in foil rather than ceramic, it tastes a treat.

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