Like a Mills & Boon romance, this North Melbourne gastro pub suits those that love their pubs dark, handsome and mysterious
Prepare to be swept off your feet by The Crimean. This dark and moody corner pub – once the Sir Robert Peel Hotel – has been rebooted and is now dripping with Eastern European charm. Candlelight casts shadows across Bulgarian propaganda posters, paintings of old ships and maps. Accordion music plays in the background and little hidey-hole nooks are the perfect place for planning a little espionage.
The drinks list flies from Moldova to Estonia and back to Victoria, and wine tasting is offered to help find your perfect match. The feasting begins with a warm shot of clear white borscht. Next up you’ll want the delightful half moon-shaped vareniki dumplings; filled with finely minced cabbage and mushroom, these babies sit on a sinfully creamy cauliflower puree and are a dead ringer for the Chinese dumpling.
The mains aren’t quite as heavy or as big as they sound. A Hungarian goulash consists of two squares of beef rump surrounded by carrots and potato balls. The beef sits in a pool of deep paprika-red juices and is so tender as to render your knife redundant. The Polish hunter casserole is definitely for dedicated pork lovers only. Three cuts of pig – sausage, smoky pork belly and neck – sit on a tangle of sauerkraut that helps to offset the porkiness. Desserts are not particularly inspiring. One could take or leave the strudel filled with cinnamon spiked pumpkin mash that’s paired with gingerbread ice cream. Far more thrilling is the trolley full of ‘medicinal’ spirits that’s wheeled direct to your table for a cheeky mid-meal shot.
With a team of eccentric but loveable staff, and the kind of atmosphere that usually takes years to create, minor imperfections are entirely forgivable as The Crimean has personality in spades.