Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Newmarket Hotel

April 6, 2012
Our main discovery this Easter weekend has been the surprising ease with which tables at Melbourne's trendiest restaurants can be procured while most of the population is hanging out at campsites and holiday houses along the Great Ocean Road. We decided to take advantage by crossing town for lunch at the much hyped Newmarket Hotel in St Kilda.

Despite the mountains of coverage this place has received (check out the list at the bottom of the post), it hadn't really made our way onto our wish-list, probably because almost every post focuses on crab tacos, roast pork and steak. Once I bothered to actually look at the menu though, it was clear that the Newmarket had plenty to offer vegos - we were particularly excited to have a chance to eat huitlacoche again.

The Newmarket presents an unassuming facade, befitting the kind of place with a fairly seedy history, but the inside has been remodelled to within an inch of its life. It's fancy. And while it still calls itself a pub, it's pretty clearly a restaurant - I can't imagine you can turn up of an evening and grab a drink and a bite, this is a place where you book a few weeks in advance. There's not an overarching theme to the fit-out, with concrete arches butting up against novelty wallpaper and old-fashioned carpet clashing with trendy light-fittings. The leafy courtyard looked glorious on the sunny afternoon we went, but I guess even on Good Friday you need a booking to secure a table out there.

The menu is heavily Mexican inspired, with a hint of Spain and California peeking through. It's also long, complicated and not particularly well designed. Thankfully, our waitress gave us a quick rundown and helped us figure out what kind of quantities would be appropriate (hilariously, she did mention that she's not allowed to use the word pizza when describing the wood-fired flatbreads, which suggests someone at the Newmarket takes themselves a smidgen too seriously). It's a menu focussed on sharing, and Cindy and I split three dishes between us.

First up, the soft tacos with crisp zucchini flowers, goat's cheese, olives and roasted peppers ($17).

I really liked these - they were a great combination of flavours and textures, with the cheese taking pride of place (a note for vegans: almost all of the veg stuff here is cheesy, although the menu does proclaim a willingness to cater to all dietary requirements). Still, as delicious as they were, $17 for two tiny tacos does feel a little bit wrong.

We couldn't resist ordering the huitlacoche quesadilla, with bbq mushrooms, spinach and jack cheese ($17).

This was a crispy, cheesy delight, but both Cindy and I were a bit sad that the flavour of the corn smut was kind of buried by all the other stuff. It still had a hearty mushroomy flavour and was complemented by the crunchy corn kernels sprinkled on top. Not too shabby.

The somewhat surprising star of our meal was the side-salad: a combination of radicchio, witlof and fennel with figs, mozzarella and an artichoke and walnut dressing ($16).

This was perfect - the sweet figs and salty mozzarella working turning the fairly simple medley of greens into a show-stopper of a salad. Cindy detected a hint of honey in the dressing, while I was trying to figure out how they'd snuck so much flavour into the white sauce on top of the mozzarella. Outstanding.

We'd intentionally saved ourselves a bit of dessert space, and happily split the Mexican coffee and tequila flan with drunken cherries ($14).

Boy were those cherries drunken. Deliciously, deliciously drunken. Yum. The flan itself was great as well - rich without being overwhelming and with a cute crispy fan of sesame seeds to provide a bit of textural variation. This is a fine dessert.

The Newmarket is pretty good at what it does: fancied up Mexican food with some clever twists. You do end up paying for it - I doubt the $17 tacos in the 'street food' section of the menu appear on any street in the world - but we didn't really feel like we were getting ripped off. For a tick over $30 a head, Cindy and I got four pretty wonderful dishes and were treated to friendly and helpful service from our waitress (although the surly guy who seated us is a weird choice as the first person you deal with). They take their drinks pretty seriously as well, with a wide range of excellent beers on tap and some stunning sounding cocktails. If you think of the Newmarket as an upmarket dining experience rather than a night at the pub then I doubt you'll come away disappointed.


Bloggers have gone mad for the Newmarket, check out Gourmet Chick, Boy Meets Girl Meets Food, Poppy Gets a Life, FoodsCrazy, rebeccaanneparish, Mr Smith's Food Journeys, spicy icecream, two munch (special food festival event), the silent observer, Eat and Be Merry for Tomorrow we Die(t), MoMo & Coco, Terroso, The Burger Adventure, melbourne gastronome, Saucy Onion, melbourne food journal, Kit's Cucina Culinaria, consuming design, Sweet Cherrie Pie, Out of my kitchen, feedmemelbourne, whatiatelastnight, Gourmet Belly, Friday Night Date Night, Cooking with Goths, This Food Guy, onemelbournian and yo tengo ambre de viejo.

Where Adles Eats, The Very Very Hungry Caterpillar, AndAnotherThing and Black Garlic were all a little less impressed, although nobody really seems too disappointed by the food.


The Newmarket Hotel
34 Inkerman Street, St Kilda
9537 1777
veg dishes $9 - $20 (expect to spend about $35 each for a decent sized meal)

Accessibility: Excellent. There's a ramp entryway, a disabled toilet and plenty of space to manoeuvre around in (although the concrete arches make for some weird tight spots). Service and payment is all at the table.


  1. We ate at The Newmarket yesterday and were very disappointed in the Huitlacoche Quesadilla.
    It was heavy and bland, so much so that it was difficult to even believe huitlacoche was included.
    We have been once before on a lovely Sunday afternoon for beers and some shared food in the courtyard. It was a great place to catch up with friends.
    The quesadilla is the only thing in the place that I can fault. But it seemed to me, to be quite a big fault considering the quality of the rest of the menu.

    1. Welcome, MelbourneJo! Yep, it's a shame that such an unusual ingredient isn't showcased better. Have you tried the huitlacoche dish at Mamasita? We're hoping it might hit the spot.

  2. This place is just down the road from me and I had no idea they weren't still doing schnitz'n'tits! Shall have to go exploring soon.

    1. Hiya fatgretel! It's such a weird contrast. Even now the interior is a strange fit for the facade... or perhaps the facade is an increasingly strange fit for the street.

  3. I've never had flan before but it looks delicious! I would probably skip the rest of the meal and go straight to the dessert menu... ;)

    1. Alexe - I wouldn't mind just eating several courses of dessert here! It is listed on the main menu so as it was I knew to save room. :-)