The weather in Melbourne as been absolutely dismal of late. Cold fronts, cold winds, and from personal experience, painful rain bullets. If there is anything colder, it’s the success of the restaurants on Southbank. Their popular ratings are as cold as steel in a bucket of Yarra River water. However, if there’s one place to warm up and grab a nice drink, or kick-start your gut with hearty food, it’s got to be Hophaus.
Let’s be frank. Southbank isn’t the first place you’d think of for chillin’ on a Friday evening. Heck, it shouldn’t even be the 10th place in your mind! But if you ever find yourself south of the CBD, headed towards the ex-Belgian Beer cafe (whatever it’s called now) perhaps, consider a stopover at Hophaus. The spacious layout offers little pockets of space suitable for small duos, friendly parties of 4s, or bigger groups for after-work drinks. The section to the left of the restaurant entrance is largely reserved for sit-down boisterous dinner. If you don’t have to strain to hear your conversation, you’re probably there at 11am.
The food is generally well-prepared, and the portion sizes are generous. The pork knuckle ($36) is slow cooked in apple cider with a small side of Bavarian red cabbage, sufficient to feed 3-4 diners. The bretzel is a perfect accompaniment which you can use to mop up the sticky juices from the pork knuckle. Washing that down with a Konig Ludwig Dunkel (560ml for $15) or a stein of Bitburger Pils ($16), carbo-load for the weekend with the Knödel, soft potato dumplings which are pan fried in bier butter, served with bits of smoked hock, celery leaves and watercress ($14). I do find the Bratwurst rather pricey ($16.5), the sausage was grilled nicely, the sauerkraut and smoked cheese topping was nice, but as an overall package it’s too expensive.
Overall, Hophaus is probably the best joint on Southbank to gather for a casual sizeable drink, and which offers good dinner options should you so desire. The staff are friendly, the bar service turns over pretty quick so there aren’t annoyingly long waiting times. Remember to make a table reservation if you’re thinking of turning up on Friday, especially for bigger groups. A duo can hanging around with a drink waiting for a couple of seats to free up in the rear bar area (right next to the mulled wine).