What: The Maryville Tavern.
Where: 71 Lewis Street, Maryville. 49611888.
Chef: Evan Garbutt.
Hours: Open 7 days from 11am.
Drinks: 15 wines by glass ($5-$11), 18 by the bottle ($24-$110), beers on tap.
Vegetarian: Breads, one small plate, one salad, one pasta, one pizza.
Bottom line: One small plate, two mains, about $50.
Wheelchair access: Yes.
Do try: The popcorn prawns and the royal burger with cheese.
IT'S a chilly mid-week night when we venture to the Maryville Tavern for a meal. It's been a quiet suburban favourite of the locals for many years now.
Recently, The Block winners Brad and Lara Cranfield, along with Brad's cousin, Michael Deer, purchased the Tavern with a view to renovate the place, while still maintaining its rustic pub charm.
The front bar area is under construction (you can still have a pint among the chipboard), but the dining area and outdoor beer garden is open and with a newly- launched winter menu.
The dining room hasn't changed a great deal. It's still roomy and comfortable. The beer garden has attractive wooden panelling and plenty of tables. Come the warmer weather and I can picture it brimming with happy campers.
We are seated inside but can still catch the whiffs of cigarette smoke drifting in from the outside. It's not the first pub I've been to in the area that suffers from this and I know it's hard with wind and people coming in and out to go to the bar and order food, but it would be great if they tried to fix it as part of their ongoing renos.
We get cracking with the menu. It's a pretty large offering for a modest pub: small plates, salads, breads, pub favourites, burgers, pastas, pizzas, steaks and mains. Tonight is also taco night so there are another four options to choose from.
A fun place to start is with popcorn prawns (battered bites of plump prawn meat). The batter is crunchy. The jalapeno and lime mayo is tasty, but it could be even zestier. I add extra lime juice and it's perfect.
Six buffalo wings are moist, tender and well cooked. They come with tangy blue cheese and hot sauce. The hot sauce isn't hot enough to stop someone who usually balks at sweet chilli sauce, but it still has loads of flavour. A worthy buffalo offering in a town full of them.
Moving onto mains, a bowl of gnocchi with slow-braised beef ragout is yummy. Tender doughy pillows of big home-made gnocchi are a knock-out. The ragout is stringy but meaty and flavoursome and boy, it's a good-sized bowl. Comfort food central.
The royal burger with cheese arrives and I can smell the pickles before I even take a bite, they are so aromatic. A great-sized patty, yummy pickles and ketchup on a toasty brioche comes served with shoe-string fries. That is one tasty burger.
The lamb shoulder seems a bit ambitious. We're venturing into gastro- pub territory with celeriac puree, roast baby onions, heirloom carrots, purple kale and jus. There are smears, and bits here and there on the plate.
The lamb is a little tough but it still has that heartening lamby flavour and everything is perfectly in season.
Dessert offerings are on the board. Tonight it's sticky-date pudding and salted caramel cheesecake. The wine list is compact, but covers all the bases.
While the Tavern and elements of the menu may be a work in progress for the time being, this family favourite is offering consistency and true comfort eating.