Thursday, 17th May 2018

THANKS FOR YOUR KIND WORDS, HERALD SUN

Cold beer and vegetarian fare hit the spot at plant-powered pub Green Man’s Arms in Carlton

There’s a welcoming smile and “G’day” from behind the bar on which huge vases of fresh blooms share the stage with frosty beer taps.

There’s living greenery, homely touches and a census of Carlton — young students, old money — all catching a bite, a beer, their breath.

It’s a new look for an old pub and it feels good.

It’s little wonder the Green Man’s Arms, the Astor Hotel’s latest incarnation, gets the pub bit so right, given the pedigree of its custodians.

Alison Whyte and husband Fred Whitlock have decades of pubbing behind them — from Abbotsford’s The Terminus to the Yarra Valley Grand — and have put winning touches all over this pub many will know as the old Percy’s bar.

FOOD

Carlton is the perfect home for the latest baton-holder of the vegetarian/vegan “reducetarian” pub, but here it’s all about plants being plants instead of facon and tofurkey.

It’s a broadly Mediterranean menu of big portions and bigger flavours, including a hefty cauliflower steak served on a polite cauli puree, the lot sprinkled with dukkah and pops of sweet currants ($24).

A tasty chickpea pancake is busily laden with delicious tahini-spiked lentils and a salad of late-season tomatoes that when eaten all together unfortunately becomes less than the sum of its parts ($22).

It’s a similar scenario with the hefty, doughy pierogi filled with an onion-and-potato mix that were oddly served with a side of (admittedly good) slaw.

Though strange bedfellows, the pierogi provide the type of easy-going comforting bulk that will doubtless get many a vegan through a long winter ($24).

But the pick of the bunch channelled summer instead.

While I would’ve loved a touch more chilli heat, the fattoush here is one of the best I’ve tried.

Fabulous fried pita that remained crunchy to the end comes dressed in lemon-spritzed yoghurt, with juicy tomatoes and slivers of radish for a touch of sharpness, all finished with fresh parsley and pomegranate seeds ($16). It’s a winner.

DRINK

Those frosty beer taps are pouring a half dozen local crafties, including Moon Dog pale ale ($5 pot/$10 pint), while Mornington Peninsula’s Quealy takes care of the house wines with drinkable class for just $6.50 a glass.

SERVICE

That warm welcome extends to the friendly team that looks after the full bar and dining room with ease.

X FACTOR

While the bones remain the same, the front bar is almost unrecognisable from the stark fit-out of the Astor. It’s homely but not twee, with an open fire to perch at over winter. Like all good pubs, there’s a full mix of generations.

BANG FOR YOUR BUCK

Happy hour $7 pints of Moon Dog makes coming in before 6pm worthwhile, and with bigger plates little more than $20, it’s an Austudy-friendly feed for students and tutors.

VERDICT

While some of the food could do with less elements and more seasoning, for a beer and a bite this plant-powered pub hits the spot for vegos and their carnivore friends alike.

Herald Sun       dan.stock@news.com.au