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Tony Leonard’s DeBortoli Pubs of the Month: First Quarter review 2019

Article image for Tony Leonard’s DeBortoli Pubs of the Month: First Quarter review 2019


First up a grovelling apology to loyal readers. There are a number of reviews to be posted by me and with notes everywhere, they will be brought totally up to date shortly (around 20-22Sept).

From a pubs point of view, the offer was consistent at the levels you expect from your local. Food trends remain relatively static in pubs, in spite of a number of personnel changes. Omnipresent is the arancini/croquette of all descriptions and quality. My only request to pubs is be wary of the fillings – mushroom in particular – lest they become tasteless the longer they are in the freezer. Big flavours and fresh please.

Draught beer standard price is $5.4/pot. This price is the RRP from the AHA. However more noticeable is the addition of popular craft taps in big pubs – Stone/Wood, Mountain Goat – and they attract a higher price. Irrespective of brand preference, it is even more imperative to present this at its optimum. Some do; Some don’t.

Old trick: Survey the drinkers around you. If they are on stubbies then take it to the bank, that it’s crap coming out of the tap. Wine prices mercifully have remained static, i.e., 10pg//45/bottle for popular labels.


It was with great sadness that the industry lost Peter Burnett, mine host at the excellent Lord of the Isles Tavern in Geelong.

Much of the change with the way Pubs appeal broadly now, was due to Peter’s governance from the early 90s. In Victoria, the most successful campaign in the mid 90s was “it’s all going on at  a pub near you”. Larger than life, Peter was the barman in that ad, but it broke down a stereotype that pubs had become a blokes only zone. It portrayed pubs as an all access, gender inclusive, multi function space that focused on comfort and community as much as anything.

Peter left us too soon.  Love to Jan and family. Vale

The first monthly nominations from February to May were;

  •  Feb: Retreat Hotel, Abbotsford.
    Yes it still has all the Sullivans nic-nacery there, but the leadlight windows, the cosy bars, good food and beer selection at the right price add up handsomely. Version1 Nintendo there, dog friendly out the back, its return after a long period of non-trading is worth it.
  • March: Bleakhouse Hotel, Albert Park.
    Another local that has returned with a bang. Indeed it is hard to fathom how this pub stopped trading with the gazillion dollar view across Beaconsfield Pde. Backed up by a sharp modern menu and good service, this must be in a for a long run. And yes, the name has reverted to its much loved original.Honorable mention to the Skinny Dog in Kew. Really good pub, doing the basics of pub to a higher level.
  • April/May: Drums Hotel, Coburg.
    Genuine working class old pub over the road from Pentridge. TAB and Pokies, but neither intrudes. What struck me was the staff and customer relationship which was genuine. Everyone seemed to be having a good time and the food and drink is very fairly marked.


This was an even first quarter of pubs. Since 1996, I have been talking about pubs with Mitchell but can honestly say I saw a first.  At the Heathcote Inn, which has a wine shop and some accommodation, there was a swimming pool. Yep, you could have a meal there and if the kids were so inclined, pop in for a dip. 

Now that was something.

All correspondence via email is read and when an answer is needed I will get back to you. All other other lifestyle reviews/recipes are contained at

Please keep comments and suggestions coming to 

Many thanks to the continued support of the team at DeBortoli.