the rochester hotel

202 Johnston Street, Fitzroy | (03) 9419 0166

 

The Rochey has been rejuvenated, and it's no longer just your average local pub.

When you think of the Rochester Castle Hotel, you can probably only conjure up vague recollections of sticky floors and dancing in a sweaty room long into the early hours of the morning. But after closing nearly a year ago, the Johnston Street establishment has reopened its doors, and it’s shrugging off any assumptions of resuming its previous post as just the local pub.

While the facade hasn’t changed — aside from the addition of a giant glowing neon sign in the shape of a crab — the inside has. For starters, the dance floor is now the kitchen. The front room has been revived as a spacious bar area, though it probably won’t feel so spacious on a Friday night thanks to the live DJ spinning tracks in the corner — a nice touch reminiscent of the Rochey of old. Well-stocked with 10 beers on tap ($5-6 pint) and just as many that aren’t ($5.50-$14), the bar also serves up a succinct selection of cocktails ($18) and spiked iced teas.

For the hungry, we suggest moving through to the noticeably quieter dining area, where you’ll be greeted by another neon crab. And it all starts to make sense. You see, Miss Katie’s Crab Shack has relocated from North Melbourne to settle in the loins of Fitzroy. If you like a menu that promises crab, an abundance of fried food and an excuse to get messy, then you’ve come to the right place. It’s all designed to share, so consider starting with Katie’s Crunchy Corn smothered in salted ricotta and a lime chipotle crema ($14) and the soft shell crab sliders  for gratifying mouthfuls of crispy crab and soft bun ($15). Follow up with the renowned blue swimmer crab boil ($24) or Katie’s fried chicken and Belgian waffles covered in Canadian maple syrup and a rich parfait butter ($24).

Your first time back in the dimly lit hotel might bring on a heady rush of nostalgia for the glory days, but the rejuvenated Rochester is just as rightful in its place.

 

Bryanna Perriam for Concrete Playground (06/05/15)

 

 

 

 

 

tuck shop take away

273 Hawthorn Road, Caulfield North | 0431 406 580

 

Tuck shop delights worth ditching class for.

The highly competitive burger scene in Melbourne doesn’t make it easy for newcomers, but since opening on an unsuspecting corner in Caulfield North this July, Tuck Shop Take Away has swiftly transitioned from new kid on the block to coolest guy in school. Owned by Clinton and Karina Serex — who, between them, have worked at Attica, Vue De Monde, Chez Dre and the Fat Duck — the gossip around the playground all seems to be suggesting the same thing: this tuck shop is serving up the best lunch menu we’ve seen in a while.

Upon arrival, there’s no denying the sense of nostalgia that washes over you thanks to the retro, school-themed interior. A menu is chalked up on a blackboard, offering staples like burgers ($9.50) and chips but also novelties like jaffles (starting from $6.50) and peanut butter milkshakes ($4-$7). Large, white-faced clocks hang from the wall, and — perhaps the most charming feature of all —  a traditional schoolyard water fountain bubbles away in the corner, ready to satiate thirsty patrons.

No bigger than a milk bar, only 11 people can be seated at a time, and there’s even less room for those lining up to order. If you’d rather not wait on the footpath it’s best to avoid typical meal times, especially on weekends. As the name suggests, takeaway is often the best policy here.

If you’re lucky enough to score a seat, gear your stomach up for the School Meal ($19). As you demolish the salty, thrice-cooked cuts and one of the tastiest burgers in town — consisting of 100% beef patty, lettuce, tomato, American cheese, onion and pickles all on the softest of seeded, brioche buns — be prepared for the lathering of very special Tuck Shop sauce that will dribble down all 10 digits. Wash it down with an ice-cold soda and a deliciously gooey Red Skin tart — all of this served on a pastel-coloured tray. Heaven.

The kind of classmate that includes everyone, Tuck Shop also caters for its herbivorous friends. The Veggie Wedgie ($9.50) substitutes meat for a beetroot, lentil and brown rice patty, but with all of the same trimmings of its signature burger. Inventive flavoured shakes and sodas not for you? Sip on locally sourced tea and coffee from Storm in a Teacup in Collingwood and Monk Bodhi Dharma in St Kilda.

There’s no sign of bullies or grumpy canteen ladies here; the service is cheerful and efficient. It’s clear the staff are just as excited as you are about dishing up great quality food in baskets, beverages in tall glasses with striped paper straws and choc chip cookies filled with Kettle chips for that savoury punch.

This is worth ditching class for. Full marks, Tuck Shop Take Away.

 

Bryanna Perriam for Concrete Playground (11/12/13)