Su­pe­rior pub grub

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - Graeme Phillips

REPUB­LIC BAR AND CAFE 299 El­iz­a­beth St, North Ho­bart Li­censed Mon­day and Tues­day 3pm to 9pm; Wed­nes­day to Sun­day noon to 9pm 6234 6954

A PUB has oc­cu­pied the cor­ner of El­iz­a­beth and Bur­nett streets since 1831. Orig­i­nally it was the Rose and Crown, then, in 1921, the Em­pire and, un­der new own­ers in 1997, it be­came the Repub­lic.

Since then, this con­ti­nu­ity has ex­tended to the man­age­ment and the kitchen, fi rst as Tony Heath moved from chef to man­ager, fol­lowed in both roles by Richard Hensens, to­day’s co- man­ager with Heath’s son Jeremy, and Hensens’ brother Ju­lian mov­ing from kitchen ap­pren­tice to chef for six years un­til he moved to Mel­bourne in 2012.

In 2003, the Repub­lic won the Restau­rant and Cater­ers As­so­ci­a­tion’s award for the best ho­tel food in Tas­ma­nia. And with a menu run­ning from su­pe­rior pub grub to spe­cials that would give many of our restaurants around town a good run for their money, it main­tained its stan­dards un­til fairly re­cently.

Ju­lian Hensens spent his time in Mel­bourne in the restau­rant kitchens at the Olsen Art Se­ries Ho­tel, where he said the hours were ex­haust­ing and the stan­dards de­mand­ing – “but it was in­spir­ing and I learnt a lot”.

Now he is back at the Repub­lic’s stoves and the food is, if any­thing, bet­ter than ever.

He makes his chicken, veg­etable and beef stocks from scratch, with the re­sult that, at din­ner the other evening, a beef cheek on a pud­dle of mash was beau­ti­fully ten­der and ac­com­pa­nied by a rich, im­mac­u­lately made re­duc­tion sauce. Even the tomato sauce on the crisp, thin- based pizza is made in house, at this time of the year com­ing with lit­tle lumps of fresh yel­low and red toma­toes still through it.

And, in a pub, I didn’t re­ally ex­pect the pizza to be topped with real Ital­ian buf­falo moz­zarella, au­then­tic Ital­ian pro­sciutto and torn leaves of fresh basil. But to his credit, it was – and it was ex­cel­lent.

Equally en­joy­able was a gen­er­ous and fl avour­some seafood paella, chock- full of prawns, clams, fi sh, mus­sels and good chorizo, the rice lightly spiced with Span­ish smoked pa­prika. For me, it could have done with a touch more saf­fron and, for the paella

purists, he said he’s work­ing on get­ting the bot­tom crust right.

Past pa­trons would also be pleased that he’s brought back one of the Repub­lic’s most pop­u­lar dishes, milk- fried veni­son, where the meat is mar­i­nated in milk for two days, sea­soned, crumbed and deep- fried, and part­nered with lovely sweet/ sour pick­led red cab­bage and plum rel­ish in a com­bi­na­tion that’s as un­usual as it was good.

On the night, I seemed to have lucked out with the pork short ribs, which were un­palat­ably dry and tough. Braised in Chi­nese mas­ter stock, fl oured, deep fried and served with harissa may­on­naise, oth­ers at the ta­ble said theirs were fall- off- the- bone- ten­der and suc­cu­lent.

The above are the more restau­rant- styled dishes from Hensens’ ex­ten­sive menu, in which the “en­trees and shar­ing” sec­tion of 11 op­tions in­cludes pub grub usu­als such as wedges and na­chos along with such more con­tem­po­rary dishes as chilli, mint and co­rian­der- fl avoured soft- shell crabs. The mains sec­tion then has 12 dishes run­ning from fi sh ’ n’ chips to a wagyu burger, mus­sels with chorizo, harissa and herbs, pan- fried chicken breast and braised Moroc­can- in­spired lamb shanks, as well as four dif­fer­ent steaks from the grill.

The wine list is al­most as ex­ten­sive, with a few in­ter­est­ing im­ports among the wells­e­lected Tas­ma­nian and main­land wines, 21 of them avail­able by the glass and all very well priced. The only omis­sion – and it hap­pens too of­ten around town – is vin­tage years.

There are also more than 100 in­ter­na­tional beers and ciders, while there’s live jazz, blues or pop bands ev­ery night. But there are thank­fully no Keno and pokies and you can en­joy your meal at some dis­tance from the mu­sic and drink­ing sec­tions in a din­ing space fea­tur­ing the works of lo­cal artists, or in a cov­ered and heated beer gar­den out the back.

Price guide

En­trees and shar­ing $ 7 to $ 21; mains $ 18 to $ 31; steaks $ 25 to $ 32; Spring Vale Mel­rose Pinot Noir $ 8.50/$ 36.

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