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