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Tony Leonard reveals his Pub Of The Year for 2017

pub of the year
Article image for Tony Leonard reveals his Pub Of The Year for 2017

It’s a tie!

Tony Leonard has revealed his Pub Of The Year for 2017, thanks to DeBortoli.

Well, pubs.

The North Melbourne Hotel and Centra in Geelong couldn’t be split.

Click PLAY below to hear how it went down on air…


During 2017, a total of 37 pubs were reviewed, 21 either for the first time or new owners taking the pub in a totally new direction.

The four best for 2017 in my opinion were;

Hotel Lincoln, Carlton – previous winner in 2011

Healesville Hotel – first time visit

Centra Hotel, Geelong – first time visit

North Melbourne Hotel – first time visit (owner/operators winning the best pub in 2007).

This was a great year and many pubs that were re-reviewed had lifted their games and provided that much envied edge that Melbourne/Victorian pubs have over other states.

The top 4 were all marked at 15, and there was only mere trifles between them and another 4 which included the Prahran, Leinster Arms, All Nations, and the Great Northern.

They all trade as pubs and have significant points of difference, joined by the common theme of comfort and hospitality.


There is no doubt that 2017 publife in Melbourne (especially) was one of melancholy.

Some wonderful pubs closed – Royal In Clifton Hill – or sold as development – Great Western in the city. This is a tip of the iceberg as many more are sadly due for closure. Two things present here and that is in spite of superficial glamour, being a publican is a complete grind seven days a week and that those lucky enough to own their building, the offer of redevelopment is too tempting.

It is fully understandable but more expected in 2018.

Bargains of good meal deals are in greater abundance if you are prepared to change a habit and enjoy the largess of the owners midweek at night, or lunchtimes Tues-Thursday.

Overwhelmingly however the good quality cheap meal (read as under $23), that is fully plated in a pub is long gone in peak times. To that end, burgers/wraps/sandwiches are prolific on menus in an endeavour to minimise cost, but as one publican said to me ‘if you want to eat cheaply in a pub, you will, but it’s cheap’.

As I have said before, it is personal opinion that frames what is value, but the gap in price between the so-so and very good, has actually narrowed.

There is a slow push towards vegan options on pub menus so much love to the Cornish Arms in Brunswick who have taken the course to make this available. Expect more in the next few years.


Best Beers: All Nations, Richmond – Carlton Draught and Centra, Geelong – Little Creatures Reinhold.

Best Value: Chicken Schnitzel, Coleslaw and Chips (lunch – $16) Hotel Lincoln, Carlton.

Best Main: Herbed Pork Cutlet, Dijon, Cabbage Slaw, Pork Crackle. $29. North Melbourne Hotel.

Best Wine List: Centra, Geelong.

Most Interesting Dessert: Crème Brulee with Maltesers, Pakenham Hotel.

Best Feature in a pub: Prahran Hotel. Simply stunning what has happened in there.

Best overall look: Healesville Hotel. It is gorgeous. The garden is gorgeous, the interior gorgeous and they back it up with food and drink.

Best straightforward offer: Royal Standard, West Melbourne. Have gone almost exclusively Italian in the offer, with fair pricing, good return to form.

Before announcing this year’s DeBortoli Best Pub for 2017, some comments on equal runners-up:

Healesville Hotel. Put simply, everything you have read about this pub, is spot on.

Hotel Lincoln: If you were to extend Melbourne’s CBD to Queensberry St., this is the best pub in Melbourne.


North Melbourne Hotel, 480 Victoria Street, North Melbourne.

This pub has been rejuvenated under the watch of Jose and Sandra D’Oliviera.

The look, the menu, the service is right out of their playbook at the much loved Bouzy Rouge, Richmond.

The food is the equal to any they have offered in their 30 odd years of Melbourne publicans.

They have some knockout dishes but in keeping with pub tradition, have established and excellent front bar to gather and socialise.

Centra Hotel, 131 Yarra Street, Geelong.

For the third time in four years, the award goes to a pub located out of Melbourne.

A first time visit to what was the old ‘Carrington’, revealed a wonderful renovation, retaining the old school front bar, establishing a compact, neat beer garden, and have produced a lovely bistro, heavily leaning Italian in offer.

The clincher for the Centra is their commitment to locals, especially with beer and wine, both of which is perfectly presented.

Both pubs deserve much success going forward, and neither house a TAB or Pokies.

DeBortoli Pub of the Year Honour Roll – 1996-2017

2017: Centra Geelong and North Melbourne Hotel.

2016: Fitzroy Town Hall, Fitzroy.

2015: Tinamba, Tinamba.

2014: Plough, Trentham.

2013: Royal, Clifton Hill*.

2012: Wayside Inn, South Melbourne.

2011: Lincoln Hotel, Carlton.

2010: Terminus Hotel, Clifton Hill.

2009: Grand Hotel, Richmond.

2008: Station, Footscray and Carringbush, Abbotsford.

2007: Bouzy Rouge, Richmond.

2006: The Albion, Port Melbourne.

2005: Metropolitan, North Melbourne and Brandon Hotel, Carlton.

2004: The Beach Hotel, Albert Park.

2003: Court House Hotel, North Melbourne.

2002: London Tavern, Richmond.

2001: Doyle’s, Mentone and the Vine, Abbotsford*.

2000: Royal Park*, North Melbourne.

1999: Emerald, South Melbourne.

1998: Clare Castle, Carlton and O’Connells, South Melbourne.

1997: Spencer, West Melbourne.

1996: All Nations, Richmond.

*Sadly no longer trading.

All the reviews from 2017 are up in the lifestyle section on the website

In closing, thanks again to Vince Gurcuillo and the team at DeBortoli sponsors of the segment since 1991 and to Neil Mitchell for allowing this wonderful labour of love(!) for the last 22 years.

I look forward to presenting the segment again in 2018, and please keep suggestions coming.

pub of the year