166 Johnston St, Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia
Visited 5th May 2010 I had to go back in Melbourne for a couple of days and before heading to Tullamarine Airport it was time for a quick dinner with my parents and a mate (who's basically family anyway). I've wanted to visit Griff's Wine Pub for ages; a good friend's boyfriend was chef here and I'd also heard a few people recommend it in the past. It's nicely set-up and they've managed to keep the charm of the old Melbourne pub where it's housed. Now the sad news; it's shutting down in the next month or so and is being replaced by a tapas bar or something just as unnecessary.
Wednesday night is bargain night at Griff's and they offer a selection of mains for a very reasonable $13.50. Both my father and I went for the roasted pork belly served atop cannellini beans. My mum chose the pork loin with red cabbage and my mate the seafood paella. The pork belly wasn't the biggest serve of meat, but it was deliciously tender. While not particularly attractive to look at the stewed beans it was served atop of were full of flavour and complimented the meat better than I expected. I also enjoyed the sample of my mum's pork chop that I managed to squeeze out of her. We finished by sharing a couple of desserts and both the crème brûlée and a lemon tart were excellent. To drink I started with a pot of Monteith Ale a crisp, flavoursome drop from New Zealand that they have on draft. My mum was happy sipping on Yarrabank Sparkling that they had by the glass while us boys went with a couple of bottles of red. First off was a fruity SC Pannell Pronto GSM and then a fantastic bottle of Samuel's Gorge Shiraz 2004. I visited this winery a few years ago and I was just as impressed with this wine as I was then.
For me Griff's ticked all the right boxes. Sure the food was good, but what sold me was the whole package. As I was literally about to jump on a plane back home to Hong Kong it's easy to compare, and in this case Australia came out a big winner. First was the chilled atmosphere; an environment that was perfect for a family get together and one that is rarely found in Hong Kong where it's either forced formality or unruly craziness. Next up was the service. The staff here were efficient, polite and aware, but they were also extremely knowledgeable and managed operate in a relaxed and friendly manner; again so different to Hong Kong were service is always chokingly formal or non-existent (I'm sure there's some expression about paying peanuts). The other great win for Australia was the wine. I've said before Hong Kong is a great place to buy wine, but a terrible place to drink it. At A$62 the Samuel's Gorge Shiraz 2004 wasn't particularly cheap, but at about HK$430 that's kind of normal for Hong Kong. The big difference is in the mark-up; retailing at A$35 (the same as it did in 2005!!!) this had less than a 100% mark-up. Now compare this to Hong Kong where wines tend to get inflated by 200% or 300%. Griff's Wine Pub really has a winning formula; I just wonder why anyone would want to close it down?