Footscray will soon be too expensive to buy into, but not long ago, the suburb was ignorable unless you really loved authentic pho. The Station Hotel, with chef Shane Donovan’s epic menu of dried-aged steaks, French bistro classics and an old and new world wine list, was one of the first non-Vietnamese venues to cause a rumble in the west. On one wall is a giant cow, its parts outlined and numbered. Your waiter will guide you through the choices on the menu, pointing out the bavette from the rib eye, explaining that a happy cow is a tasty cow and that the one you’re about to enjoy frolicked freely in a Gippsland field.
You’ll find the grand old building on the intersection of Buckley and Hyde Streets looking just like a good old boozer. The front bar still has the TVs and pool table locals want, plus a leafy courtyard to shade punters in summer as they knock back steins of Trumer Pils and 2 Brothers rice lager. In the dining room, linen creeps in, but only in napkin form. They may go hard on truffles and serve condiments in little copper pans, but they keep things casual and we like that. Still, if masticating a cow is too big a commitment, crusty baguettes in the public bar might be filled with folds of pink roast beef, mustard and Gruyere, and come with crisp salty fries. The French onion soup is practically vegetable caramel topped with a thick lid of bubbling molten cheese. If your idea of pub fun is all fork-and-glass related, the Station delivers in every way.