Food

Pan Asian Cuisine to Savour at The National in Richmond

The National in Victoria St Richmond is a stunning pub with a killer courtyard and fit out, and is excelling with its pan Asian menu. Designed by Jerry Mai, the menu features compelling Asian dishes such as the Sticky pork ribs and slaw, and Slow cooked lamb, as well as burgers. The World Loves Melbourne was invited along to experience The National and see what people are talking about. 

This is a savvy modern pub, in line with the precinct of Victoria St with its standout Asian options. The World Loves Melbourne sometimes gets bored with pub menus as being safe and predictable, but here at The National they blow up beige with exciting menu options. We found a park nearby with the pub not far from Victoria Gardens and easily accessible.

 

The National boasts a smart beer and wine list, and we started our lunch with a Rose from the Yarra Valley.

The National boasts a killer courtyard and the place was packed on a Friday lunchtime. Table service was excellent and the staff themselves were engaging. 

Sitting in the courtyard on a mild Friday afternoon imbibing oysters and Rose was a tough gig, but someone had to do it.

The National served up this rich and rewarding Drunken Duck bao bun with plum sauce and cucumber. When I'm looking for pub food this is the type of dish I'm wanting - full of taste and texture and packing a punch.

The National rennovation is one of the best pub rennovations around with modern interior and exterior, strong design lines, with great use of timber and texture, brushed concrete, attractive tables and booths, and a warm and welcoming tone. Even better The National uses recycled materials and is green in its approach.

Dumplings at a pub gets my vote. Comfort food at its best with these steamed dumplings handmade. We were also tempted to order the Fried Chicken ribs and Vietnamese spring rolls. We imbibed the nouveau wines on the wine list and noted the beers were also mainly new world including Mountain Goat, Hawthorn, 3 Ravens, Brooklyn and Holgate, some of our favourites.

The wow factor came in the Hoi Sin Sticky Pork Ribs... Sticky pork glistening goodness. This was a revelation to The World Loves Melbourne as some of the best ribs we've experienced in Melbourne. The portion was large and fed 3 of us easily. Just peel off the delectable meat and wrap it in a bao bun with slaw and sauce - a great dish. Perfectly slow cooked pork with right amount of moisture and sticky factor, with marinade delightful. The Slow braised lamb shoulder is also a great sharing dish, while the other mains such as Pan seared salmon and Malaysian curry are a hit. The National should have a sign "No parmas here." It turns the mindset of pub food on its head, although if you do want a burger The National delivers.

We enjoyed the touch of bamboo along the courtyard fence, rustic tables and the communal table with table tennis net.

The rennovation has been extensive and spaces are described as "provinces", expressed best on the website,

"The old Victorian shell was stripped of 100 years of renovations, down to its bones and internal workings. A rich and textural palette of recycled materials was then overlaid into the interior to divide and enrich the space.

The space was then divided into 5 ‘provinces’.  Each with it’s own vernacular, unified yet different:

The café (the outward looking – the explorer)
The booth seating (the developed and populated)
The opium den (the reclusive)
The dining room (combined cultural histories)
The courtyard (the forbidden city)

The 5 provinces are governed by one central body – the bar. Monumental, the bar stretches the length of the building from the inside to out, enabling staff to serve patrons in any of the ‘provinces’.

The booth seating areas are ripe for intimate discussions. Recycled timber and tarpaulin cushions form large seating clusters around concrete and steel tables.  Steel cages overrun by vines separate the booths from each other.  Recycled fence palings cut to form timber tiles reminiscent of the exposed lath and plaster ceilings above provide another layer of space definition. The decked courtyard is enclosed by tall, recycled brick walls from which a repurposed army tent has been stretched out taut to shade perimeter banquette seating clad with old stair timbers.  Exterior partition walls of mismatched concrete blocks laid on their side in a hit and miss pattern, provide separation, connection, texture and shadow play. Lamps in amber glass bottles hang from catenary wires across the courtyard,  providing Chinese lantern strings with a twist.

The hotel has been renovated with the highest regard for sustainability . A 2.5kW solar panel array and a solar hot water system complements the low energy output of the National. Passive solar design strategies along with natural ventilation systems are utilised to eliminate the need for energy intensive air-conditioning systems. 9000L of rainwater is harvested from the roof and stored  in black recycled caged tanks and plumbed in to flush the toilets. A concealed services platform locates of refrigeration equipment remotely to reduce internal heat loading, while also housing kitchen plants and a worm farm.

The National Hotel is now the new republic for the people of Richmond.  A place for people to come together in their own community – where the architecture, like the staff, is proud to serve."

The National serves up specials such as the Chop Chop $14 workers lunch every Thursday and Friday, great value and smart food. If I was working in Richmond I would grab my workmates and head down here for a lunchtime session. 

The National impresses in so many ways and I've raved about my experience to friends as a perfect place for a catch up or work soiree. We wish more pubs would get this creative. Highly recommended.

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