If someone told me 10 years ago that I was going to wind up living 300 metres from a line-around-the-block kind of pub and hardly go there, I would have told them that’s as crazy as Australia having a red-headed, female prime minister.
But every time I walk through the doors of the Prahran Hotel I wonder why I haven’t yet dragged my mattress 300 metres down the road and redirected my mail to 82 High Street. The Prahran Hotel has everything a south-eastern suburbs pub in Melbourne should have: a modern fit-out, live music and/or DJ on the weekends, a bunch of security guards that take their job way too seriously and a runway-standard dress code. Be warned: if you’re wearing anything longer than a mini skirt you’ll feel like you should have stayed at home with a bowl of cheezels wondering when you became old.
So why don’t I come here more often? It honestly has nothing to do with the venue and everything to do with my choices in life. In my defence, I’m going to put my lack of over-visitation to the Prahran Hotel down to the sheer gluttonous volume of alternative alcohol-drinking venues in this postcode, which is giving me a serious First World problem headache.
My local pub, the Prahran Hotel
If I could choose any pub as a neighbour I would have to stick with the newly-refurbished, opulence-meets-pub, Prahran Hotel. With its beautiful Art Deco exterior and uber cool interior decor of wooden cladding, exposed brick, wrought iron beams, fernery and booths in wine barrels, it’s a nice place for a Friday after-work drink or a Sunday cider session.
And clearly a lot of people agree, as it’s always heaving with the cool crowd. Making it wonderfully easy to get a cab from home any night of the week, especially on a weekend when yellow cabs can be seen snaking around the block.
The front bar still has a ‘your local’ vibe to it, playing football on-screen every Friday, Saturday and Sunday during footy season – it’s a great place to join fellow SA expats and watch any Adelaide matches, which are all too frequently banished from free-to-air in Victoria.
Although the Prahran Hotel claims to have a beer garden, I would be more inclined to call it a two-metre squared smoker’s cube, with a few planter boxes. Sitting in there you feel more like a zoo exhibit behind Perspex than a relaxed beer garden dweller.
The downside of living 300 metres from a pub
To get anywhere worth going I have to walk past the Prahran Hotel, this can be very distracting and dangerous at times. Like the time that I had my friend Alison here for Melbourne Cup and we were expected at a post-Melbourne Cup BBQ at our friend Mitch’s place on the other side of Chapel Street. We were genuinely on our way when we just thought we’d stop at the Prahran Hotel for a water (or wine) break. When we arrived two hours later, to a series of grumpy faces, our lovingly poured champagne was flat and our sausages cold.
Or there was the time when our Sydney friend Jared was making the most of some free accommodation and crashing at our house while we were on #87 road trip back to Adelaide. He rang to ask where the nearest bottle-o was. Dan Murphy’s on Chapel Street (this was pre the Prahran Grocer, at 87 High Street, excitedly opening their doors). An hour later we get a text saying that he never made it to Dan Murphy’s, accompanied by a photo of a beer-wielding Jared and the Prahran Hotel in the background. Every hour after that we received a text message telling us how great our local is, in scrappier and scrappier versions of English.
The Prahran Hotel is like a bag of mixed lollies; it’s a bit of a surprise bag. Not only does it have a great bar, dance floor and footy-watching atmosphere, the food is better than you’d expect too (although not Michelin-stared either, and not the best pub food in the area. Hello The Smith).
While they serve up your standard pub fare of burgers and beer battered fish, there are a few dishes on the menu that you wouldn’t expect to find in a pub. When I don’t feel like deep fried meat and potatoes, the prawn and crab spring rolls have been pretty good, as is the crispy skin salmon. And make sure you ask what the fish of the day is, as it’s usually something you wouldn’t expect to find in a pub, like grilled barramundi. As a general rule, I’ll avoid pub pasta like it’s swine flu but the seafood linguini is better than average pub fare too.
Hot tip: request a seat in the wine barrels
If you’re dining in, make sure you book a seat in the wine barrels (suitable for groups of two or six). Although, I’m told this concrete piping feature is technically supposed to resemble beer kegs, I feel much more at peace with the world knowing I’m eating my chicken parma (or chicken parmie for the South Australians among us) within a wooden-clad, leather seating-lined wine barrel.
It’s the pub I never go to because it’s so obvious. Where’s the adventure in stumbling a few doors down? It’s only when interstate visitors come to stay and can’t stop talking about their new-found love that I realise I’m living next door to the stuff of cheese-induced dreams.
Having said that, the option to walk next door for a parmie and a schooner of cider – sorry a parma and a pot of cider – never gets old. Who needs to cook when your neighbour is serving up $14 steak and parma night every Tuesday and Wednesday?
Prahran Hotel | 82 High Street, Windsor, Victoria
Phone: (03) 9529 2168