The Rochester Hotel kitchen shifted gears mid 2018, rewriting its standard pub menu to one focused on Southern Indian flavours, with chef Mischa Tropp drawing inspo from his mother’s homeland. Now your pub dinner comes with restaurant-style service where waitstaff know Kerala from Kashmir, and swiftly wipe away evidence of the city’s flakiest parota (layered flatbread) and crisp chilli-laced poppadums.
Those chasing a serious curry kick should order the chef’s favourite – a fiery fish curry made with the daily catch from the markets. There’s also a hot-but-not-too-spicy slow-cooked beef neck in ginger and garlic. It’s rich, oily and deceivingly filling and will have you mining the bowl for any remainders. The half-chook Kashmiri curry is a milder alternative, with hunks of chicken swimming in a bowl of smooth chilli sauce, tanged with tamarind and sweetened with caramelised onion. What it lacks in Insta aesthetics it makes up in flavour. If you’ve overestimated your spice tolerance, you can as a side of silky housemade curd (imagine a runny, natural yoghurt) that lets you drizzle a sour slave over the top of all those strong flavours.
What’s a pub menu without sliders? Here they’re made with a sweet bread traditional to Goa and filled with chorizo, prawns or chilli potato. Vegetarians don’t miss out, with soft strips of cabbage flavoured with coconut and translucent curry leaves; and green papaya with chilli gravy. Don’t know where to start? There’s a $55 ‘shut up and feed me’ menu, which can be made vegetarian or vegan on request.
With the new kitchen the Rochey now walks a fine line between rowdy pub and destination restaurant. It’s still a pub for the people and the dimly lit bar serves your usual range of booze and fancy G&Ts, plus a few Indian-style cocktails to boot – hello rum-spiked mango lassi.
While this corner pub in Fitzroy has food definitely worth going back for, leave grandma home on Saturday night unless she’s square with raucous weekend debriefs bouncing off the bare brick walls. You come here for curry, or to party. Or both, if that’s your idea of the perfect night out.