Mikkayla reviews: Panton Hill Hotel — ‘this is no ordinary, small-town pub’
Panton Hill Hotel
633 Kangaroo Ground-St Andrews Rd
Less than an hour from Melbourne’s CBD is a little town called Panton Hill. Established back in 1859 as a goldfield, these days it’s more of a farming community just shy of 1100 residents who take great pride in their historic buildings, sporting teams (home of the Panton Hill Redbacks and EIGHT cricket teams) and bushland reserves. A nugget hasn’t been found in the area for quite some time… but the town has definitely struck gold following the recent refurbishment of their only pub, the Panton Hill Hotel.
Winston Churchill once said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste”. He was referring to the formation of the United Nations post WWII, but the publicans of Panton Hill Hotel may have taken some influence by using the long closure during the worst of the COVID crisis to renovate. Multiple features of its original 1900s decor remain – there are beautiful, open brick fireplaces, stained glass windows, and a beautiful, ornate wooden bar. But the dining room has been extended and opened up, and as you head out the back, you’re greeted by a multi-levelled deck overlooking stunning views of open, green landscapes.
At first glance, the menu seems like your classic pub fare – a parma ($26), a burger ($26), fish of the day (market price), a couple of steaks to choose from ($32/$38)… and then your eye lingers over offerings such as salumi and cheese platters ($16-$30), mussels arrabiata ($18), confit duck breast ($28) and truffled mushroom risotto ($22). Views aside, this is no ordinary, small-town pub.
The beef ragu arancini balls are rich and meaty, punctuated perfectly by a smear of Napolitano sauce ($13). Golden-crumbed eggplant chips as fat as a grown man’s thumb come artistically stacked and are a delightful kewpie-smeared crunch ($12). Baked goats cheese is a nice inclusion on the menu – served with a dukkah-style pistachio crumb, a smattering of Aperol-infused fruit chutney and a drizzle of honey ($12). We were surprised to find it was served without bread – but luckily a plate of garlic bread was ordered- as every pub meal should include – and made a delightful base for the creamy yet intensely-tart spread ($8).
It’s hard to resist a plate of ribs and the Panton offers both tender, braised beef ones ($30), or – my choice – pork ribs rubbed with their signature spices. Choose between a half or full rack and enjoy the slightly spicy BBQ glaze they are generously slathered in ($32/$59). An extra side beyond the small garden salad they’re served with may be a good idea to break up the heaviness of the sauce – or just dip your chips in at the end and enjoy the richness. An extra side dish may also go well with the ricotta gnocchi ($24). A generous portion of larger-than-normal, soft balls, the ricotta features heavily – the spinach puree and zingy balsamic reduction is necessary for the delicious, but heavy mouthfuls – perhaps a touch more would elevate this dish to new levels.
Dessert options are limited but cater for all tastes – a light, pistachio mousse; a traditional tiramisu… or the incredibly indulgent sensation that is a double choc brownie topped with dollops of whipped white and dark chocolate mousse and served with a scoop of rich, chocolate gelati ($12). Get two spoons for good measure!
Order at the bar, or stay seated and use the handy QR code on your table to order and pay online. Another small but handy feature is that when you order your entrees online, you can choose to have them delivered before your mains, or altogether. Grab a glass of Yarra Valley Chandon or a pint of Mountain Goat Lager to sip while you wait for your meals – and enjoy the scenes below. Today there is a small family who brought a picnic rug to spread out on the ground so the parents can relax with an Aperol Spritz and Espresso Martini, and the kids can run riot around across the lush, grassed area to the cubby house.
The service is warm and welcoming country-charm friendliness all round – from the bar to the wait staff, and we’re told that the weekends are bustling with live music performances – some ticketed, some just requiring a forward reservation. It’s the perfect venue to visit before or after a trip to the Yarra Valley vineyards – just a 20 minute further drive, or as a standalone lunch or dinner catchup.
My advice – get to Panton Hill Hotel today, tomorrow, this weekend, next week. To the residents, it’s just their dependable local (that I’m hoping they’re happy to share!) To everyone else, it’s a destination – and a well-worthy one at that.
Panton Hill Hotel is open 7 days from 11.30am.