Monday, May 31, 2010

May 17, 2010: Retreat Hotel

Our fortnightly 'pub club' outing with colleagues and friends has decreased in frequency since its ringleader was diagnosed as coeliac. Pub grub is more glutenous than you might expect, and even more disappointing for Andy is that most beers are now off the menu. But there was a little surge of enthusiasm when Michael identified Abbotsford's Retreat Hotel as having a gluten-free-friendly menu.

The hotel is set just off the eastern end of Johnston St, which makes for a less than pleasant ride (cross your fingers for a green light across Hoddle St!), but the warm and warmly lit interior is a lovely spot to recover. The menu's a smidge pricey - entrees are $10-$15, mains $21-27 with $15 parmi specials on Mondays - and there are a few vego options scattered about.

Michael ordered the 'roast beetroot risotto with goats cheese and walnuts' ($21).  He found it a bit bland, with only the mouthfuls containing the goats cheese providing much excitement.

I went for the vego parmi option ($15 on Monday nights) and received a mountain of food. The skinny chips were great; the eggplant parmigiana had a pleasant flavour but was incredibly thick and stodgy; the coleslaw was a nice idea that just didn't come through.  (Hey, coleslaw makers - you don't need to drown it in mayo!  In fact, some of the best 'slaws don't even include mayo!)

We gave the Retreat a chance to prove itself with dessert.  Michael was happy with the 'chocolate pudding with rich chocolate sauce and ice cream' ($9.50) that he shared with Jo.

Mike and I were keener for the 'sticky date pudding with toffee sauce and cream' ($9.50). The sauce hit the right note but unfortunately the pudding wasn't what I was after, more an airy cake without much depth of flavour. 

While the Retreat Hotel deserves credit for its cosy environment and gluten-free options, it's not exactly a vegetarian's delight.  The meat-free dishes they serve rely heavily on cheese (vegans, stay away!) and are a bit hit-and-miss.  It'll take another wave - perhaps a tsunami - of pub club enthusiasm to tempt me back.

Address: 226 Nicholson St, Abbotsford
Ph: 9417 2693
Fully licensed
Price: veg mains $15-21, desserts ~$9.50


  1. I was watching channel 31 last night (finally got their digital licence). This is on at 8:30, I'm not effected, but also have a few friends that are gluten effected, so your ringleader might like to tune in.

  2. Agree completely.

    I've always liked the Retreat's warm and cozy atmosphere (you can sit in an area called the snug!) but the food has been hit and miss over the last few years. As in, it was very good and I went about a year ago and it was a definite miss.

    I particularly remember the veggo options being bad as one of our friends is vegetarian and ended up with a very lacklustre pasty. She didn't even finish it. I felt bad that it was my suggestion to eat there and consequently I haven't been back!

    As an aside, occasionally a guy stands on the footpath near the retreat with a telescope and invites passers by to look at the stars... very cool.

  3. that's a shame about the celiac diagnosis - hope you find some gf and veg friendly pub grub - but in reality you are probably better off having an Indian or a Mexican or just heading off to grumpys green for the gf pizzas (not that I tried them but sounded interesting)

  4. Thanks Nudbot! We don't get channel 31 at our place so I was completely unaware of this - will share the link around. :-)

    Hi Emily- it's a shame, as there is a lot to like about this pub... including the telescope guy! Very cool indeed.

    Johanna, you're probably right that there are other kinds of restaurants that will cater better to coelics. I suppose the main benefit of a pub is that people can come and go as they please, drink and chat and just order food at their leisure.

  5. Oh just one other comment - you should head to the Fox in Collingwood with your pub crew. As I have previously mentioned, it has a large veggo menu and it also is quite GF friendly, identifying which dishes are (or can be made) GF.

  6. Yes! Thank you, Emily. Funnily enough I was going to head over there last night but ended up cancelling. I shall get to the Fox one of these days. :-)