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