Brand new to Melbourne’s Southgate is German-style beer hall and restaurant, Hophaus. Launched by Red Rock Leisure (the same group that runs Bearbrass, Ludlow Bar and Dining Room and P.J. O’Brien’s, all of which are also along Southbank) along with DEXUS Property Group, Hophaus already has pretty good odds of succeeding. In its favour are its central location, direct views of the Yarra, European beer offerings, and authentic Bavarian food that I haven’t tasted since I did a student exchange to Germany in 1999 (yes, I’m old!).
My work boys and I popped along there for lunch last week; in fact, the official opening was due to take place that night. Workmen were hurrying about, completing the finishing touches – such as putting frosted light globes into sockets overhead – and fresh-faced staff stood at the ready, with an air of expectation and happy pride about them.
To get into Hophaus, find Bearbrass on the ground level of the Southgate precinct, and head into the arcade behind it. Turn right, take the escalator upstairs, and at the top you will be greeted by a giant HOPHAUS sign and some deco-inspired geometric design. Maddison Architects were brought on board to emulate classic beer halls but with a warm and contemporary twist.
Past the hefty curved bar, covered in kitschy polychrome-glazed bricks to match the retro powder-coated bar stools, the venue opens out into multiple sections: several indoor areas to the left, that could be used as function areas; the main balcony in front of you; and a side outdoor/indoor area behind the bar, to your right. It’s pretty huge, actually, with capacity for 350 patrons in total.
We sat at the edge of the main balcony, directly overlooking the river and the regular hordes of tourists and city workers wondering up and down Southbank. We were even unexpectedly treated to some busker music.
As it was a grey-ish day in late May, the temperature was on the cool side out on the balcony. Not an issue! A heat-sensing clear plastic outdoor blind automatically came down if things got a little too chilly. Plus, of course, there was loads of beer available to keep us warm.
There are 30 draught taps to choose from, including selections from Germany, Austria, Czech Republic and Belgium, and apparently feature beers will be regularly changed up. Wines are also predominantly European, coming mainly from regions in Germany, Austria and Alsace.
Executive Chef, Marc Brown, has created a stellar menu of “good honest food” in the form of Bavarian classics, but designed for sharing as per the Melbournian style. Perhaps I enjoyed it so much because I remembered the flavours from my student exchange. At the time, I stayed in a town near Nuremburg, which happens to be in the Bavarian state of Germany (south-east). I’d tried some of the local food, which included things like knödel (doughy German dumplings), spätzle (a kind of fried, piecey carbohydrate, usually served as a side) and bretzeln (proper, big, soft pretzels), as well as your regular stereotypical wurst (sausage), schnitzel (crumbed fried meat), sauerkraut (pickled cabbage) and strudel (pastry fruit dessert) – and had loved all of it.
It could be my European heritage, but something about hot, cheesy/meaty/carbohydrate-y food appeals to me! German restaurants are hard to find in Australia, let alone decent ones that offer genuine German food. So you can see why I was so excited to try Hophaus – and it did not disappoint! It should be noted that meat is a heavy focus here, perhaps so the chefs can maximise use of their open rotisserie-fired kitchen.
We decided to share everything: Bier-battered oysters served with dill and sauerkraut (unusual, but inspired!) Bitterballen (which I thought were Dutch, not German?) – basically crumbed balls of shredded meat, served with mustard Knödel – moist, doughy dumplings served with butter and smoked ham hock Pork Knuckle, slow-cooked and served with red cabbage Käsespätzle – spätzle cooked into stringy, creamy mac-and-cheese (delicious, but I do like the traditional spätzle more); and, for our meat portion: a Bavarian Platter, which included leberwurst (liver paté), shredded pork, piggy brawn, marinated herring (a bit too similar to eel, for my liking), sausages and beef brisket, and a warm bretzel. These came with a choice of mustards.
Together, it was all really filling. My favourite was the knödel, and I think the boys enjoyed the meats on the platter the most…or possibly the oysters (hard to tell!). They certainly enjoyed their bitburgers, and I drank a lovely wine recommended by the waitress – dry but mild.
When the staff established that I could speak a bit of German, suddenly we were being waited upon by the German waitress working that day! It was fun, actually – my very rusty German was suddenly put to the test, and although my memory of vocab is lacking, apparently I can still make myself understood! *YAY*
Most other patrons there at the time were businessmen, clearly there for lunch and a cheeky bier. Strangely, I didn’t notice many other women present, but that could well have been because it was early days, and the word wasn’t out yet! (Now it is! Ladies, haul your appetites over to Hophaus – it’s filling, but it ain’t just blokey!)
I really hope Hophaus takes off. Not just for the flavours I am so partial to, but it ticks all the boxes: friendly service, great food and drinks, cool design, stunning view, central location, and it is certainly unique. I’ve waited years to find good knödel and spätzle in Australia – I’m going to take advantage of this!
HOPHAUS BIER BAR AND GRILL CUISINE: German, Gastropub, European ADDRESS: West end, mid-level Southgate Ave, Southbank PH: 9682 5900 HOURS: Mon – Thurs 11am – 12am / Fri – Sat 11am – 1pm / Sun 11am – 12am WEBSITE:www.hophaus.com.au FACEBOOK:Hophausbar INSTAGRAM:hophausbar TWITTER:@hophausbar