Talk to some of the older guys around town and they lament the disappearance and decline of inner-city pubs that once crowded the blocks around the Brunswick, hotels like the Albion, Alabama, Carlton Club, White Horse Tavern, Criterion, Garrick’s Head Inn, White Swan Inn and the Waterman’s Arms which was on the corner where the Police Recruitment office now stands. Of that lot, only the Alabama remains.
So it’s good to see the Brunswick (c1827) given a new lease of life and a modern makeover with an L-shaped, marble-topped bar, black, slim-line furniture and polished concrete floors contrasting with the soft, mellowness of the original sandstone walls and arches. The Brunswick also has a place in Hobart’s culinary history as the hotel where Graeme Sice first introduced his now famous – infamous? – giant, hang-off-the-plate-beef schnitzels which he subsequently took to the Black Buffalo and then to the Cascade Hotel where they still attract the lunch-voucher crowd.
In bringing to the Brunswick his many years of retail and corporate hospitality experience in Melbourne and Perth, the new owner, John Couche, says he wants to turn it into a stylish bar and the casual, eatery-of-choice for inner-city diners. And chef Justin Harris’ menu is nicely targeted and priced to suit that audience. Well-prepared dishes like his delicate asparagus, broad beans and soft-poached egg, the more robustly flavoured Basque-style mussels and a chunky rabbit and ham hock terrine have the virtue of simplicity while mains are a big step up from the usual pub-grub clichés with Cape Grim rump, hand-cut fries and Tabasco butter, duck breast with beets and pickled cherries, a good pork cutlet and a flavoursome chicken, mushroom and tarragon pie very reasonably priced at $28, $27, $25 and $21 respectively.
Starters $5 – $12; oysters $3.50; small dishes $15; bigger dishes $21 – $28; sides $6; cheeses $12, $17 and $21 for a selection of one, two or three; desserts – ask the excellent waitress who will rattle them off ingredient perfect.