03 September 2009

The Rose Hotel

One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.

Once in a while I hook up with old friends - and a couple of new ones - from the advertising industry to chew the fat over a lunchtime cheap eat. I love the comfort of the outing, exchanging news, experiences and ideas. I get excited and chat my head off. The Banff in St.Kilda has been a popular venue for this gathering, but it is always heaving and not a particularly comfortable venue for a medium sized group, so we adjourned today to The Rose in Port Melbourne, which is now run by the previous owners of Banff.

The Rose has been through many incarnations in the twenty odd years that I have been an irregular patron. In the eighties it was a trendy, yuppie pub, popular with the Marketing crowd, then it became a party pub, eventually a retro party pub - playing music from the yuppie era when eighties parties came into vogue - and then for a time a serious wine pub. For the last few years it has been a Gourmet Traveller and Good Food Guide vaunted Greek restaurant and bar, surviving two different ownerships. And then Port Melbourne changed.

The restaurant got increasingly quiet and even enticements to the Greek community such as live basouki music failed to draw them in. A nearby Greek Restaurant that had also once drawn big crowds at a sister venue in Swan Street, Richmond also felt the pinch and moved their focus to a generic European offering, serving cheese degustations, breakfast, coffees and a deli selling pre-made take-home meals.

The elderly Greek community began to die out and their children took advantage of sky-rocketing property prices to sell the down at the heel Port Melbourne family homes that had nurtured them since geting off the boat at Station Pier. I suppose many built Mc Mansions in Oakleigh, and with the move, the local demand for Greek Food was ably sated by Old Man Stavros' plate smashing institution in Albert Park. The Rose was regularly empty and eventually sold. The owners moved to South Melbourne to sell pizzas.

The first I heard of the new regime at the venue came in the form of a flyer - from Rose Bar Pizza - also touting Gourmet pizza albeit with a cleanskin bottle shop. "Not another pizza venue?" I said to Mr Sticky, "We already have eleven pizza joints within walking distance of home. How will they survive?"

But we were sufficiently enticed to try it, being at the end of our street, and because I wanted try Italian Sausage pizza with caramelised onions; Roast pumpkin, Gorgonzola, rocket & pine nut pizza, along with Prawn, chilli, saganaki, lemon & rocket pizza. We did not regret it.

Essentially the menu here is the same as Banff's because the former Chef is now at the Port Melbourne venue. Since her departure, I've noticed that the food in St.Kilda is less reliable and so our moving our group's lunch to Port Melbourne was a sound one. As one of my locals, their offer of a selection of 10 excellent gourmet pizzas at $5.50 for lunch Monday to Friday, and on Monday & Tuesday nights is hard to go past. And I love that this is further proof that you can get gourmet grub that beats Maccas for value.

At Rose Bar Pizza, as it is now known, the pizzas are midsized and thin based with a generous serve of quality toppings. There's no bulk bags of commercially grated cheese or ham of dubious origins here. Each pizza is flavoursome, with the right amount of crunch and chewiness. I can also recommend their salads, the potato, saganaki and rosemary pizza; Chorizo, artichokes, cherry tomato and olive pizza; Moroccan Lamb with mint yoghurt and za'atar pizza and the velvety Macaroni Cheese which arrives in a miniature paella pan.

As a chick, I never seem to be able to finish the pizza on my own so although tempted, I have yet to try the chocolate, cherry & ice cream pizza or the apple crumble & custard version. Given that they have happy hour from 3-6pm every day, I may just have to slide down there for 'afternoon tea'.

Like Banff, they also serve the delicious frothies made by Bearings Brewery in Geelong at $2.50 a pot. So today, at lunch the boys enjoyed a meal for $10.50 including a couple of beers. A couple of them tried the tasting tray at the bar to sample which cleanskin they fancied quaffing, and a good time was had by all in this large, modern yet comfortable room, with it's long marble topped communal space and walls festooned with art and customised pizza boxes decorated by regulars.

Time slipped away quickly in such convivial surrounds. I left clutching a box of my leftover pizza and a takeaway so that my beloved did not miss out. As I walked home to work again overlooking my garden, I counted my blessings: a beautiful Spring day, great friends and simply prepared quality food that didn't break the bank. Life is truly good.

Rose Bar Pizza
309 Bay Street, Port Melbourne,
Victoria, Australia ph. 9646 3580
Mon-Fri Noon until late, Saturday 5pm until late

Rose on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

Wo the old Rose in yet another incarnation. Years ago a good friend of mine's Italian Mum used to head the kitchens there, for well over a decade. Her cucina rustica was legend, making all her own pastas etc. So many meals & so many memories, if a place could talk...
I'm sure you managed well with all the 'Boysie'ness of the crowd? Was 'Singo' there by chance?!

stickyfingers said...

I sat in the midst and held my own with the fella's, perhaps it's one of the reason's I'm one of the few 'ball-breaking old birds' left in the industry ;)

Last I heard Singo was recuperating from an operation, didn't miss him, besides he's more of a Rockpool type these days LOL

stickyfingers said...

I just had the good fortune of meeting talented Chef Karen while enjoying her delicious chocolate & cherry pizza at The Rose - you have to try it, it's smaller than main course pizzas so squeeze it in.

Apparently there has been a rise in patrons to the venue since this was posted, so we'd both like to thank all those who read the blog and went to try the food.

rebecca howard said...

im not to sure if this post will ever get read by karen but thought i would drop a line to say i was a backpacker traveling around australia stopping in port melbourne, i was very greatful for being offerd a job at the rose hotel and spent alot of my time eating my dinner there as it was so delicious and very affordable for a backpacker!! a definite thumbs up!!! :D
if you ever pop back give my regards to karen and sam for me!