Food and Drink
Posted by Dan Kuseta
29. Apr, 2013
The patch of Johnston Street between Brunswick and Smith streets is sometimes overlooked when traipsing between Fitzroy and Collingwood. I reckon this strip reflects the changing face of the neighbourhoods it links – on one side you’ve got a couple of restaurants, The Rochester and a servo turned dog spa, on the other Jimmy Possum and a Centrelink.
Among the mix is the Town Hall Hotel, which for the past two years has been helmed by hatted chef (and genuinely nice bloke) Harry Lilai and wife Michelle. Inside the pub that was once the less than schmick Purple Turtle has received the Grand Designs treatment – there’s a cozy front bar for casual beers and snacks, a fancier dining area out back, a restored staircase and even a basement cellar.
They say a menu reflects a chef’s personality, and this is apparent at the Town Hall Hotel. Harry’s Italian-menu is unfussy and prefers dishes with minimal ingredients. All the classics are here, from antipasto to steaks, pasta and desserts. Everything also come in humungous servings.
Harry’s signature risotto of tiger prawns, preserved lemon and basil ($23) is an understated triumph, while the gnocchi di patate with 20 year old balsamic, butter and parmesan ($20) shows that butter and cheese were meant to be. My favourite through was the peppered duck breast, crisp leg with sweet mash, lime jus ($30), a hulking mass closer in size to a chicken that struck a balance of sweet and salty flavours. I wanted to try more, but Harry broke me at three dishes.
The good news is that stomachs heal, and the first Thursday of every month (yes, this Thursday) is Smokin’ Night. No, you can’t light up a Winnie Blue in the front bar, but you can try Harry’s smokey treats including US-style sticky ribs, smoked salmon and duck breasts. You can bet the serves will be big.
TOWN HALL HOTEL
166 Johnston Street, Fitzroy
Tues – Sat 12pm – 12am
Sun 11.30am – 6pm
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