Yes, Gastropub is an actual thing. Officially since 2012, when Merriam Webster’s Dictionary added this portmanteau of gastronomy and pub in its update, and colloquially since the early nineties when the term was coined at The Eagle in London.
In Canberra, many a pubby place may be described as one. The term basically defines a pub thats serves food not traditionally thought of as pub fare; in which case anybody doing more than a Ploughman’s lunch, bangers and mash or a ‘pie and pint’ qualifies.
For new Duxton head chef and proper Englishman Stuart Trower however, the term has evolved to imply a level of quality and style more in keeping with a smart bistro, with gastronomy rather than pub being the dominant component.
As such, he and sous-chef Brendan Burnell have been busy developing a new menu to express that very sentiment in time for the completion of a major refurbishment at The Duxton in January. He says the offer will be trimmed back and streamlined, so expect a more succinct list.
Burgers will be reduced to one or perhaps two quality offerings (and none too soon as the whole burger thing is in serious need of a cull across Canberra) and seafood will be embraced with excellent produce from premium Sydney providore Planet Chef featuring strongly.
Thankfully, prices don’t seem to be heading skyward as a result. Trower says he wants to focus on good, honest food with value for money, and is currently rolling out some of the dishes on the blackboard to gauge customer feedback.
On the day we visited, chargrilled marlin at $26.90, whole marinated sardines at $21 and deep fried quail at just $20 all seemed to deliver on that promise. Pizzas also seemed to have got a thorough overhaul–thin, slightly floury and just crispy bases with good topping ingredients and no overkill on the cheese.
As for the actual refurb, we are told to expect big things. Trower tells us the job will be done in stages, so the pub won’t stop trading at any point. The end result is promising to be a shiny new multi level pub complete with a roof top open-air courtyard and cocktail bar, and of course sports bar and dining facilities–think The Golden Sheaf Double Bay.
In the meantime, if you do happen to pop in for a meal, go for one of their blackboard specials. It will probably be one of the new menu items being tested. Feedback is very welcome, so don’t be shy in letting the kitchen know how it rated.