Hotel Lincoln (sometimes known as The Lincoln) in Carlton is one of the oldest pubs in Melbourne. Its most recent incarnation has turned it into a destination gastropub since new owners took it over late 2014.
The outside of the hotel still looks much the same ie slightly seedy and dim but a light refurbishment has turned the Art Deco front bar into a gleaming place for a drink and a chat, while the remainder of the space invites a proper sit down meal.
And the food by chef Lachlan Cameron (ex MoVida Aqui, Supernormal) is attention-grabbing and stunning. It’s not pub grub for uni students – this is fine dining done at affordable pub prices. There’s not a parma or burger to be seen.
The menu spans small plates (7 oz) to medium sharing dishes (schooner) to large meals (pint). Given I wanted to try EVERYTHING I left it in the chef’s hands – $45 for 5 courses of the chef’s choice (they can cater for dietary requirements). They also do a more extensive version of 8 courses for $60 but trust me, you will be very full after 5 courses.
First course was from the ‘7 oz’ section – tersely described as ‘spanner crab, corn crackers’. It was a mixture of fresh creamy crab scooped into a delicate and aerated corn shell. Sublime.
Then onto a generous charcuterie platter of local and imported cured meats, including a melt-in-the-mouth jamon serrano, lap cheong-like peasant sausage with a hint of sherry and chilli, a ventricina and squid ink sausage which didn’t have any seafood flavour for me. All accompanied by some hunks of crusty bread and whipped butter.
The vegetable dish was a lightly scorched cauliflower with crisp and salted dehydrated cauli leaves – a most unusual way to present a part of the vegetable I normally discard. The underlying sauce was made of parsley with chunks of roasted almonds.
From the main meals I received the only fish dish – salmon, chorizo, clams and stormy lager sauce. Lest you start worrying at this point about your pants spitting, the cut of salmon is about half size. Crispy-skinned and juicy it pairs well with the fattiness of the sausage.
The main course comes with a pot of triple cooked chips, perfect in their fluffy/crisp ratio and a nest of cos hearts with house made curd. I’m not sure whether I receive one or two people’s portion of the sides but they were enormous and could not be finished, sad to say.
Because I needed to leave room for a dessert – a deconstructed lemon meringue pie. Flaked shortcrust pastry, dabs of lemon curd, cubes of soft meringue and freeze-dried raspberries, all artfully arranged on an ice-chilled plate.
As befits a good local the service was friendly and accommodating. I had stupidly only parked in a 1 hour parking spot so had to rush through my meal – and everyone was fine with that. They even let me take home a doggy bag of the chips!
While I didn’t delve into the drinks list a quick scan showed attention to craft beer and inexpensive wine.
Hotel Lincoln has got to be one of the best gastropubs in Melbourne and I’m floored by how reasonably priced it is. Get there quickly before it becomes over-popular and you can’t just walk in.