59 Napier Street Footscray
A table at the Station Hotel is a hard thing to come by on a Saturday night. A few years ago Sean Donovan, he of the Botanical and various Michelin-starred establishments in France and London, headed way out west to craft the sort of gastro-pub he always dreamed of. Nobody thought it would fly, but they were wrong.
Located off the beaten track, near the police station and town hall on the outskirts of Footscray, you would drive past it a hundred times without glancing. The bar is still a regular old bar, although a lot more gentrified than the last time I visited over a year ago. The pool table is still there but no longer in pride of place, and the diners have spilled over into the bar on more casually-set tables. The only people sitting at the bar were also eating, and this time I believe Adam would have been quite happy waiting for me on a barstool, cheeky glass of red in hand.
It was a quiet Saturday night, our waiter said. A big bear of a man, he hit a perfect balance between friendly service, formality and knowledge of the menu. This place is famous for its steaks and we both gravitated to the listing. Our waiter patiently explained the difference between wagyu and Angus, grain-fed and grass-fed, Bavette and rostbiff, and the varying degrees of ageing.
The longest-aged steak on offer is a 450-day Sher Wagyu rostbiff, which is what I chose, with a terrine de campagne to start. Nothing like the gourmet equivalent of good 1970s food on a wet autumn night. Orlando chose the provencal fish soup to start, followed by a Gippsland dry-aged grass fed lump of Black Angus rump. I started with a glass of Mitchell's Peppertree shiraz, which was served to me before I saw the Torbreck's GSM on the listing. Never mind.
The fish soup was sensational. Dark red and smooth like tomato ketchup, it had the very essence of the sea in there, along with obscene amounts of garlic and good after-kick. I really need that recipe. Mystarter was also divine, but huge: it was a pleasure to wade through this hunk of ham terrine aided by some toasted sourdough, but towards the end I was not sure where I was going to fit my main course. The Peppertree shiraz went down like a dream and before I knew it my glass was empty. On to the Torbreck's. Marvellous.
Our steaks were served simply with a handful of chunky hand-cut chips and a simple but delicious green salad which I devoured for once in my life. My rostbiff (which is a portion of the rump) was out of this world, like the last time I ate here. A good strong flavour and a texture that cut like butter. It was cooked medium-rare, perfectly seared outside and a deep pink inside. Orlando's Angus was similarly beautifully-cooked to medium, another lovely steak but with a gentler flavour. We ate slowly.
The restaurant was still quite loud like last time, and could do with a few more wall hangings or other upholstery to soak up some of the noise. The clientele was a mixed bunch: a Vietnamese family at the next table with a single white man amongst them (probably the daughter's boyfriend), two large tables of young people celebrating birthdays or some such, a couple of well-heeled foursomes of a certain age with Melbourne intelligentsia haircuts and avant-garde outfits, and a few local couples like ourselves out for a quiet dinner.
Overall a great evening's food, and the change of vibe in the bar would certainly entice me down for a counter meal or two mid-week now I know you can eat at the bar in reasonably pleasant surroundings.