Richmond Seafood Tavern
About a month ago I ventured into a pub I had pretty much ignored previously for one of the most impressive seafood meals I've had. The pub, on the corner of Hoddle St and Elizabeth St, Richmond is nothing exciting in an nothing exciting part of Richmond. It's filled with old regulars at the bar and playing the pokies, but somehow they've acquired themself a very fine restaurant, with a distinct emphasis on seafood.
Apprently this pub restaurant has a very close connections with the old Fitzroy place, Rubira's, which was a seafood institution in its day. Bringing in the old manager of Rubira's to revamp the bistro here means that these pub meals have definite pulling power. An interesting concept in an otherwise bland pokies venue.
If you're not into seafood, this is not your place. Yes, there are a few alternatives. There's lasagne...but it's made with seafood. There's a steak option, but who'd bother, really? You're not coming here for steak.
Before the night an email from Tony Leonard, the reviewer for 3AWs pub of the week informed us of the quality of all items on the menu and encouraged us to order a shared seafood platter. He warned us that it would be expensive, but that's the price you pay for good seafood. This shared-platter idea was encouraged by our waitress, who confirmed that it is what the pub does best. Order as many items as you like from the menu and they'll put together a platter for you in an appropriate size. The cost would be dependent on what you order.
Sounded pretty good to us, and our table of ten organised 3 platters between us. The photo above is our platter, shared between 3 of us. Not shown are the salted snapper fish cakes we ordered, which arrived first and were served individually. Hot, crispy, salty and substantial, they were a great beginning to the meal, which had already started with beer in the main bar.
Contained on our platter were our choices of chilli prawns (separate small dish above) - juicy and tomatoey but with no real kick of chili. Our chili-lover on the table was disappointed, although the prawns were excellent; very plump and firm. Behind them are a specialty of the house, king prawn spring rolls - a big, juicy prawn wrapped in spring roll paper and deep fried. Hot, crisp oily goodness - but best to eat these soon after they land on your table.
We ordered the full selection of scallops on the shell. The selection at the time included with bacon; with a champagne herb sauce; and mornay. I enjoyed all of these, but particularly the more delicate flavours of the champagne & herbs. I often forget how good scallops are, and have to remind myself to order them more often.
Also chosen was a selection of oysters. Half a dozen natural, served with lemon, and half a dozen kilpatrick (bacon and worcestershire sauce - not a favourite taste combination of mine as it kills the flavour of the oyster, but chosing the platter was a collaborative process!). These oysters were very good, albeit on the small side, and tasted freshly of the sea. This is despite it being at the tail end of oyster season here.
However, the real standout of the meal was one that took me by surprise. Some simple Red Emperor fillets deep fried in a light beer batter were incredibly fresh and full of a wonderful delicate, yet earthy flavour. It reminded me closely of the fish ordered in good Chinese restaurants which is quickly steamed to enhance the real quality of the product. This was a dish that didn't need any accompaniment. Lemon, salt, tartare sauce are all superfluous when faced with fish this good.
Desserts are good, and quite refined - there was a coconut pannacotta, slices of various tarts (good pastry) and a chocolate parfait. An attractive inclusion was an affogato with your choice of liqueur. A long platter arrived with a tall, stemmed bowl containing a scoop of good vanilla icecream, flanked on either side by a shot glass of espresso and one of your liqueur (Amaretto in our case).
Cost per person for a platter of this size was between $50-$60 per person, and whilst portions were large and filling, they were not pub-sized extra generous. Add to this drinks and dessert, and yes, it probaby won't be a weekly excursion. But for entertaining and as a place to celebrate it is excellent; the room is large, with enough space between tables to feel some privacy, and there is space for large groups. Drinks are at bar prices and there is a good wine list, obviously geared toward a selection of good white wines. I was expecting to dine to a backdrop of clangs and coins from the pokie machines, but they are at the other side of the building, and the only time you'll be near is when retiring to the bar for a few end-of-evening liqueurs. If you don't want to be that close to reality, remain at your table to prolong the well-fed haze.
Richmond Seafood Tavern
14 Elizabeth St, Richmond (cnr Hoddle St)
Ph: (03) 9419-8724
Tues-Fri noon-3pm; Thurs, Fri, Sat, 6pm-9pm;
Website: Richmond Seafood Tavern
Other reviews to be found here and here.