Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Kent Hotel - Carlton North - Modern Australian

Venue – Kent Hotel
Cuisine – Modern Australian, which like the neighbourhood includes a strong Italian influence
Address – 370 Rathdowne St, Carlton North
Phone – 9347 5672
Open 7 days, lunch and dinner
Price range – depends on how much you drink, mains ~$19-29 (pizzas and snacks are cheaper)

When I first ate at The Kent it was a typical Aussie, green tiled pub. The front bar was inhabited by old codgers, the back bar was where you grabbed a couple of cold beers to takeaway, when you were feasting on fish and chips over at the park. At some point, a couple of enterprising young women took over the defunct kitchen for a few nights a week and whipped up pastas and other homely treats.

Ah, but those days are over. The Kent is all fold back doors, French café posters and designer beer on tap. Not a green tile in sight. The food also has evolved from chunky fettuccine to large pillows of ravioli and the perfect al dente spaghetti marinara. The menu changes seasonally and is augmented by a daily blackboard of specials. There are always some good sharing options, like a plate of better than average dips and bread, or chunky fries that never fail to please - perfect to snack on with a cold drink or 3 when you don’t feel like indulging in a full meal. There is range of tempting pizzas, thin bases, wood fired (I think), more gourmet than traditional. The staff never blink when I have done a fussy bitch™ order and asked for the seafood pizza without the cheese and what’s more it is always yummy. Mains include chunks of meat (which carnivores always assure me are wonderfully tasty), risotto (vego and non), there is always some kind of delicious dish of crustaceans, pasta and fish and chips. Remember to check out the specials – which usually include a pizza of the day, soup, ravioli, fish, chicken and other meaty dishes. The specials here actually deserve the title, they are a special take on the dish of the day. Then there is dessert! Too hard to decide? They will make you a tasting plate of sweet treats.

The Kent is a modern pub for all seasons. The food is certainly restaurant quality, but offers many options away from the rigidity associated with formal dinning. Whether it is a pizza for lunch with a good cup of coffee, a shared plate of calamari with a friend over one of the excellent wines by the glass or a full on 3 course meal, it suits all occasions. Some people even just come here and drink. On summer days, the extended footpath is the perfect spot to sit overlooking Curtain Square and catch the afternoon sun. Inside you can be seated more informally at one of the tables near the bar, or in the adjoining dinning area. Wherever you sit, the service is almost always excellent.

As much as I miss the homely dinning room in the old pub, I have a growing affection for this versatile local. What’s more it solves the age old quandary of where to go when you have vegetarians/meat heads/allergic/only want a salad/only eat dessert – type of friends wanting to get together for a good night out.

Reviewed by Another Outspoken Female


sublime-ation said...

You didn't run across the freaky dude who tries to upsell you on the fried things? He's obsessed! I'm too scared to ever go back there, it's all 'zucchini frittes, you must try our special zucchini frittes' like The Kent's world-renowned for its fried zucchini or something.
He gives me nightmares.
Also this is the place with the weird smoking laws.

Mel said...

Brilliant review - I'll be sure to check it out now - mmmmm chunky meat things...
I like the history on the place as well - very very well done AOF

Another Outspoken Female said...

Sublime are you talking about a guy in his 50's with grey hair, italian? What i forgot to say in the review is that the chefs have gone through their ups and downs. There was a spot for a lot of last year when it went down, but currently the kitchen is on the up again. Though those who are averse to oil should ask the chef to go easy on it. The smoking stuff shits me and I can't wait til next year when all pubs are smoke free. I can't quite work it out at the kent. There is an end of the bar where you can eat but also smoke at certain hours. Crazy. But outside and the dinning room end seem to be far enough away from it.

Thanks Mel. It's hard to review the dead flesh part of the menu when you don't eat it. A friend chowed down to a big chunk of steak with a bone in it (rib eye?) and declared it very good. I snuck the juicey bone home for the cat, but she didn't cough up any reviewing comments other than "miaow" followed by a frenzied bit of washing.

sublime-ation said...

I don't know if he's Italian (if he is, he's the pushiest Italian I've ever met) but he's in his 50s and quite big. He may or may not have grey hair, I think he does.
I just hate upselling, fair enough most places have to do it with drinks, as they bring in a lot of their money, but fried stuff? He has done it twice when I've been there with friends and my mum, whose got high cholesterol, and in the end she said 'are you trying to kill me?'. That shut him up. Temporarily.
I prefer The Paragon down the road, might do a review to keep the Rathdowne St theme going.

Chai said...

Fried zuchinni? *drool* Sounds like it's worth a try, if I'm in that area.

Husky Nutmeg said...

Great review. You've covered it all. Sounds like a good meeting place as you say.

'They will make you a tasting plate of sweet treats'
And good coffee you say? Bring it on.

Another Outspoken Female said...

Sublime in all the years I have been there I haven't had any upselling nor have I ever heard it uttered that it was renow for the zuccini do dahs, so not sure who the culprit is. Will keep my eye out though and blast them if it happens :)

Dave said...

Sublime - the big guy with the balding grey hair is the owner. I have noticed him get a bit, ahem, enthusiastic at times. Possibly because he starts drinking just before the doors open at 11am. Um, allegedly. But when I wander past he's usually perched on the end of the bar, or chatting to C-list celebs who're attracted by the mirror-like floorboards.

By the way, nice review AOF.

sublime-ation said...

Thanks Dave. Mysterio fritte loving man's identity revealed. Guess that means he won't be leaving anytime soon then?
He stuck his head out the window yesterday and yelled at my mum 'Ciao bellissima come stai you are beautiful (drooldrool)!' and my mum was like 'Ciao brutto!' (not really but I told her that's what she should have said. Actually she just ignored him, like the classy lady she is).
I'm coming off as a real bitch now aren't I?


Seriously it was a very well written review, AOF. Love ya work.

*writes food review quickly so that she doesn't get kicked off this blog*

debs said...

I had a dream last night about a tasting plate of sweets and considering I'd never come across this before, I have only to assume that I was dreaming about the contents of your review. At dream worthiness, I give it 5 stars. Well done. Oh yeh, and sorry for posting my columbos review so soon after yours. I am now up to date on the review blog etiquette. *grins*

Ange said...

Good to hear you had a good experience. Last time I went in Dec last year the food was good though the staff left a lot to be desired, has actually put me off going back again even though i have had good visits prior to that - see my entry in Dec archives