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Tony Leonard’s De Bortoli Pub of the Year: Third quarter summary

Neil Mitchell
Article image for Tony Leonard’s De Bortoli Pub of the Year: Third quarter summary

It’s time to round off the year again with my summary of the best pubs from September to November and also nominate my favorite four of 2015.

All pubs are of better levels of food and drink in my opinion and capture the essence of what pub life should be about in 2015.

On 11 December of Neil’s final show for 2015, a winner will be announced in the 20th year of me presenting this segment, whose origins date back to 1991.

From the first and second quarter reviews (29/5 and 28/8/15), 3 pubs have been nominated;

?      Yorkshire Hotel (aka Stigo), Hoddle St., Abbotsford and

?      Marquis of Lorne,  George St., Fitzroy

?      Tinamba Hotel, Tinamba (Gippsland).

The third quarter pub is the Aviary Hotel.  More later. These four are my best for 2015 and are worthy finalists for the Debortoli Pub of the year.

The third quarter covers 4 September to 27 November and from the 11 reviewed, again 7 are either first time visits, or have new ownership and significant makeovers.

In this time, I have aimed to get a cross-section of Victorian pubs, with a couple being big pokie/suburban hotels, (although the Crown in Lilydale is small by comparison) and the remainder small-mid sized owner operator venues.

All correspondence via email is read and when an answer is needed I will get back to you. Please keep comments and suggestions coming to


I have two ‘gripes’ to finish the year and one is familiar territory (sorry).

So let’s start again with cleaning of glasses with another reminder to pubs which is the advantage they have with tap beer, over bars/restaurants that serve stubbies and pour into glasses that have seen as much Fanta as they have Coopers pale.

There is a significant drop off in this area which affects the quality of the beer. Unless they are properly treated with the right cleaners (not immersed in Morning Fresh), scrubbed, hot/cold washed and chilled, then the ‘at the limit ‘ charge of $5/pot (which has to have a labour component) is a rob. Whether new staff is being properly educated is a matter for owners/managers, but I hope it is addressed.

Look around at your local; you can see if they care or not about this fundamental of a pub.

The second is the cost of a bottle of wine. Here’s a fact:  Everyone is more educated about wine in 2015, the varietals, what works best with what food, but above all with the price.  It is been my commonly held belief that a mark-up of 100% on full retail is not unreasonable given the attendant costs.

Maybe it is a close to town thing, but a per glass of $10 ($45/bottle) is gathering pace where the price of wine has flatlined.  And I’m talking about pretty stock standard easily accessible bottles.

Best Beer Presented

Craft:  Stone and Wood Pacific Ale, Aviary, Abbotsford.

Commercial:  Carlton Draught, Rising Sun, Sth Melbourne.

Pub Food Trends:

The push in 2015 can be summed up in words; American, Burgers and the most omnipresent – Croquettes. As always, some good, some bad.

Pub of the 3rd:  (4 Sep – 27 November 2015)

Aviary Hotel,  Abbotsford (review 30  October)

Given it cannot be traced to a former pub at its site in Victoria, the team has achived ‘pubness’ in a short space of time.

Risky as they pitch the food and drink a bit higher, but the gamble has been worth it on an ever changing menu, that has created a signature dish , ‘Chicken Scratchings’ (think pork crackle from a  different animal).

Beer is lovingly attended with the right mix, and the atmosphere in the courtyard, while a little rough around the edges suits all ages.

Happy to include it in my top 4 for this year

Honorable Mention

Lucky Coq, Windsor (review 18 September)

Gotta love it – Student friendly, insanely cheap pizza ($4/ea most nights) and loud without raucous.  Experienced operators have given Melbourne a real alternative.


Next winner another pub of the year is crowned around 1140.

The four finalists are:

  • Marquis of Lorne,  Fitzroy
  • Yorkshire,  Abbotsford
  • Tinamba, Tinamba
  • Aviary, Abbotsford

Thanks again for the support from Vince Gurciullo and the team at DeBortoli.

Neil Mitchell