Birthdays! The biggest excuse, in our family at least, for dressing up (complete with a pre-emptively loose set of trousers) and heading out to eat ourselves stupid. Food, as I imagine it is in a lot of families, really brings us together, and we tend to make a big effort to celebrate milestones by trying to insert as much delicious food and alcoholic beverages into us as humanly possible.
Which is how we all found ourselves in Footscray on Mum’s birthday, scrambling from out of the maxi-taxi into The Station’s Hotel’s carpark, ravenous and anticipatory. I was enormously keen to sample The Age Good Food Guide’s 2011 Pub of the Year, and had been bolstered in my keen-ness by my dad, who is a sharp foodie himself and has been a fan of The Station Hotel’s offerings for years.
A cursory glance at the menu might make vegetarians baulk slightly. The Station’s speciality is steak, and their beefy offerings takes up a goodly chunk of the menu. But what surprised me was that although the vegie options are a little scarce (along with my main I think there may have been only two other vegie options in the entrees section), my meal ended up being one of the most impressive, most delicious, and just damn GOOD that I’ve ever had.
For my main I had the eggplant parmagiana with buffalo mozzarella and heritage tomatoes. Now, an introduction to serving sizes at the Station: they are absolutely MAMMOTH! Seriously, I’m a fan of ample servings, but this thing came out in a huge baking dish that could have happily served about three people. I’m not entirely sure if I should be proud or appalled that I managed to polish it all off, but it was hard to stop. The eggplant was gorgeously plump and well-seasoned, the bubbling tomato sauce all sharply piquant and intriguingly complex (I think I found tiny green grapes in the tomatoes! I have no idea what they were doing in there, but they were delicious so who cares!). It was gorgeous, and honestly as perfect a dish as you’re ever going to find.
After consuming such hugely decadent meal, I’m betting that you’re thinking that I passed on dessert. Well, that’s what a sensible person would have done, but if the past nine months of food rambling has taught you anything, is that I am clearly not sensible at all when it comes to portions. So of course I placed in a swift order for the hot Valrhona chocolate cake with rhubarb jam and vanilla ice cream. Just like the eggplant parma, the chocolate cake was ridiculously huge, presented in a wide, round quiche platter containing a sea of cake, with a big white scoop of ice cream on top, like a delicious bobble hat. It was rich, it was chocolate heaven, and the gold lay right at the bottom of the dish with a slightly caramelised layer of rhubarb jam, which pretty much sent me into a heightened state of rapturous glee. The fact that I got so full that I had to leave a fat sliver untouched, filling me with a profound, aching sadness that took a good few days to leave me, should stand testament to how damn good a dish it was.
I was not only me who was having a revelatory dining experience. All up and down our table came a chorus of delighted gasps, sighs and any number of satisfied foodie sounds. I haven’t eaten out with such a big group before where every single member was left so completely in awe of the food, the service (which really was impeccable, strikingly that tricky balance between attentive and inobstrusive) and the experience as a whole.
So find yourself your own special occasion, or heck, just make one up, and head on down. Bounties await you!
The Station Hotel
59 Napier Street, Footscray
Ph: 9687 2913