27th October 2016
3/60 Fitzroy St
St Kilda, VIC 3182
I may not frequent pubs, but I have always nursed a soft spot for them. They are just like such comfortable, easy-going, home-away-from-home sort of places. They remind me of worn, squashy armchairs by a good fire – something anyone and everyone can enjoy.
The Fifth Province, an Irish pub set on a corner in the streets of St Kilda, is a perfect proof for my theory. Behind a slightly dated and very unassuming facade hides a collection of beautiful rooms; some full of light and flowers with walls panelled in mint green, whilst others are dark and polished, perfect for sharing a bottle of wine. It is obvious however that an effort has been made to keep The Fifth Province down-to-earth. Despite an interior that a newly opened tapas bar wouldn’t hesitate to call their own, this is a pub that’s popular with people from all walks of life.
Appropriately enough, the pub’s name is derived from a lovely quote by Mary Robinson, the first female prime minister of Ireland: The fifth province is not anywhere here or there, north or south, east or west. It is a place within each one of us – that place that is open to the other, that swinging door which allows us to venture out and others to venture in.
Despite a huge amount of alcohol on offer, including a special Oktoberfest section touting beers by the stein, we were here to try out the new Spring/Summer menu. First up was the obligatory Charcuterie Board ($24), which came with an enticing array of meaty goodies. The salami, jamon, and saucisson were freshly sliced into soft, waxy folds that were fresh and full of porky flavour. The chicken liver parfait was smooth and strong, spreading thickly over the crispy baguette chips. It tasted absolutely magical with the onion marmalade, which were really just sweet, syrupy threads of pickled onion.
I never pass up the opportunity to have a steak, and tonight it was the Porterhouse Steak ($29.9, 300g) with a Creamy Mushroom and Red Wine Jus.
The steak was cooked medium-rare as promised, with a juicy centre, and a healthy coating of char on the outside. I did however think that the steak was quite under-salted, even with the addition of the gravy (which was great as a dipping sauce for the thick-cut fries by the way), but with help of the saltshaker and a healthy grinding of black pepper, this was an enjoyable steak all-up.
The real star of the night however was me the traditional Irish Beef and Guinness Stew ($22.9). On first glance, you may think that the only remarkable thing about this stew is the enormous serving size, but you’d be entirely wrong. The chunks of beef were braised until they fell apart with the touch of a fork, whilst the selection of root vegetables were fluffy and hearty, having soaked up the amazing beef gravy, which bore the unmistakable fruity sweetness from the addition of Guinness. And if you’re not impressed by that, you have to be impressed with the Irish soda bread, which was dense, moist, and soaked up the stew like a delicious sponge.
A reprieve was needed before ordering dessert, and 45 minutes later we were tucking into the Crumble Of The Time ($9.5), which was a peach melba on the day we visited. I actually wasn’t a fan of this one; the peaches were canned, and the biscuit and honey oat crumble tasted oddly dusty. Not even the homemade custard was much help, as there was just too little of it.
Conversely, the Lemon and Lime Posset ($9.5) was an absolute treat. Resembling more of a syllabub, this thick, creamy custard was stirred through with lime zest, summer berries, and brittle walnuts. The flavours were bright and summery, and a great reminder of the turning of the season to longer days and warmer nights.
The Fifth Province is my idea of a great pub. Despite being a Thursday, the vibe was fantastic, with great tunes followed by a fiddle-heavy live band. Topping it off was the great food, which may not have been fine dining, but was full of flavour and heart. And frankly, the beef and Guinness stew was so good that I would happily come back for that alone.
Rating: 13/20 – heart-y.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.
Sweet and Sour Fork dined as a guest of The Fifth Province.