"Now stand up straight," I said, fussing other my kids like we were about to meet the in-laws for the first time. "I want you on your best behaviour. This place is a little bit posh."
We were at the doors of the newly gussied up Plough Hotel, where I'd been just a few nights earlier for a lovely launch party complete with oysters, bluegrass and freely-flowing Brunswick Bitter. The refit is stunning, with glossy white tiles, luminescent bare bulbs and the visual pop of green succulents peeking out from shelves and tables.
The pub has been here since 1868. I remember its former incarnation, windows daubed in fluoro paint that Candy the Clown was in attendance on Fridays. We'd had a few good roasts there but it didn't really rock our world.
The Plough closed for what must have been a good year or two before opening under the stewardship of the team behind North Carlton's Kent Hotel. Instead of Candy with her balloon animals, there's now Kelly Brothers cider and 2 Brothers Grizz amber ale on tap, plus Mountain Goat's steam ale and more.
"Bistro or dining room?" said the lovely waiter, and soon we were lolling languidly in a booth in the bistro. Apparently the dining room has the same menu but is just a little more formal. I bet its big north-facing windows let in lots of lovely light all day.
The Plough has a menu that, on the face of it, could be that of any true-blue country pub - burger, fish and chips and even bangers and mash.
But dig a little deeper and that burger has a veal pattie and roasted garlic aioli, and the fish and chips is flathead with local beers that change weekly, apparently. This was the kids' menu fish and chips and the fish was indeed a lovely flattie tail. It went down a treat.
Kids' chicken parma which also got two thumbs up. The chips are "roughed up" on the outside, making them crunchy all over and eminently stealable.
Great bangers and mash - quality pork and fennel snags with peas and pancetta lardons, in an intense, delicious gravy. The sausages were denoted as "Benalla", but our waiter just said they were from that area - I'd love to know more, if they're from a particular butcher or from a particular breed. There was a slight hiccup in this dish's first incarnation on the table in that the sausages were a touch pink. The friendly staff dealt with it with aplomb though. Being open for less than a week, this was nothing more than a minor mishap on the kitchen's behalf, and I also think the friendly yet professional way it was handled was telling as to the Plough's integrity and commitment to real hospitality.
Tucking into ice cream with strawberry "sauce" (actually coulis - yum!), my 5-year-old said, "Mum, I thought you said this place was posh? Where is the posh bit?" And indeed, I had read the Plough all wrong. It's classy and it's gorgeous, but it's also down to earth - and downright good. Welcome to the neighbourhood and I look forward to many more ciders to come.
Cnr Geelong Road and Barkly Street, Footscray
Phone: 9687 2878
Phone: 9687 2878