I’ll be honest, when we chose to visit the Pumphouse Hotel we weren’t expecting a grand meal – in fact, where were pretty set on devouring a calorific traditional pub meal like a burger or an over-cheesed parmigiana. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a friendly waitress and whisked into a window seat in a lovely dining room with high ceilings and a enviable view of the Carlton Gardens.
An essential glass of red to ‘celebrate’ being made redundant, a fruity and light shiraz featured as the house red. The menu at the Pumphouse Hotel had so many dishes I could have been swayed to choose – always a good sign. I ended up changing my mind 100 times before choosing the Slowly Braised Lamb Shoulder at the last minute. J ordered the Rosemary and Smoked Paprika Lamb Cutlets, which was also on my shortlist.
Here is a case where delivery trounced expectations in every single way. The lamb shoulder was tender, succulant and the jus seeped through the delicate meat. The polenta was slightly herbed, but not overally flavourful. Yet when paired with the lamb it was a perfect marriage of flavour and texture. The serving size was surprisingly generous for the price – I was quite full by the end of my meal and I can eat a helluva lot of food in one sitting.
The cutlets were cooked perfectly, with a subtle balance of rendered fat and succulent meat. The creative force at work in the kitchen was evident on the plate; a sprinkling of baby capers and the tapenade offering some considered and well-measured complimentary tastes to the dish. The most surprising inclusion was the two little mounds of smoked tomato salsa – I can’t say I’ve ever had smoked tomato before and the experience gave depth and character to the meal.
The Pumphouse Hotel offers up generous portions of honest, quality food with enough of a creative twist to make sure you’ll be thinking about its intricacies long after you’ve made the fat-walk home. We can’t wait to go back and try the rest of the menu.