This meal was our first real test of the Melbourne Veg Food Guide. We had tickets to a Melbourne Arts Festival show in North Melbourne, and consulted the guide for some nosh in the neighbourhood. The Town Hall Hotel seemed the pick, and though I was anticipating a grand, expansive building we found something else - a rambling and cluttered terrace house with barely a spare seat in the front bar or dining room, even on a Tuesday night.
After relying on a blackboard menu and ordering food and drinks at the bar, I was a little surprised to receive complimentary bread and butter delivered to our table. It didn't have that ubiquitous Melbourne sourdough look, but I liked its softness and flecks of pepper even more.
The menu offers about three vegetarian mains - not a terrible effort, for a pub - so it's hardly coincidence that we picked out the same dishes as the Veg Guide reviewer. The vegie burger ($14) no longer contains a pumpkin patty, but there's plenty else going on - an oversized mushroom, polenta-crumbed eggplant, goats cheese, red capsicum, greens and onion, lemon mayo and tomato chutney, as well as a generous side of chips. It's a little too much going on, actually; while I loved the super-fried eggplant slice and the mayo, the goats cheese was a little overbearing. Apparently this kitchen doesn't mind veganising the vegetarian meals, so I'll take that path in the future and give the goats a break. The chips were pretty darn good, boasting seasoned salt.
Michael's lentil shepherd's pie ($14) arrived a bit later than my meal, and for all that was still searingly hot. You'd think this was ample opportunity for me to clean my plate before he'd picked up his fork, but apparently not - he scooped up the cheesy mash-topped tub in record time!
I don't think the Town Hall Hotel will be luring Melbourne's vegans and vegetarians away from the East Brunswick Club any time soon, but it turns out a fine meat-free meal at a reasonable price. Better yet, it looks like you could count on it for a rollicking and unpretentious atmosphere just about any night of the week.
Address: 33 Errol St, North Melbourne
Ph: 9328 1983
Price: veg mains ~$14