The Northcote Social Club is a veteran of the Melbourne music scene, and like many classic venues of yore, it's recently had a little facelift. Gone is the faded glory of an ageing Aussie pub, though the interior has retained its old-school warmth with polished floorboards and wooden accents, elegant lighting and young, heart-leafed philodendrons curling up sparse metal grates.
There’s still ample seating for eating, drinking and people-watching available in the front bar and deck, while the gig room is still as large and magnificent as always. We barrelled up on a chilly Monday to sample the new menu before the crowds showed up, but in true NSC style, the place was filling by 4.45 and a band was setting up.
Some things may never change, but the menu is not one of them. NSC has done what we wish all venues would do, which is ensure the face-stuffing-before-the-cab-ride portion of the evening can happen right after the band finishes without the fuss of leaving the building. The new menu stays true to the hearty, carbo-loaded goodness common to pubs, and unfortunately for the vegetarians among you, the tradition of an all-meat cast rings mostly true. There are, however, a few fresh and original salad options, a mushroom burger and vegetarian add-ons, as well the classic vego consolation prize: fries and garlic bread.
The wagyu beef burger with bacon and fries ($23) is exactly what you want it to be: big, meaty and juicy. There are a few more exotic burgers options too, such as the kangaroo burger with onion jam and wattleseed mayo ($21) or the pepper and salt soft-shell crab with kaffir lime and mayo ($22.50).
The share menu is where they get a bit creative, and it’s a pleasing mix of modern and classic. There are no words to describe the slow-cooked pork belly with crackling ($16 for a share serve). It should be called angel belly with heavenly crunch (or maybe not; we’re still delirious from the crackling). The sweet puree, fresh spring onions and salty crackling that accompany the generous portion all work in perfect harmony.
The chilli salt squid with green pawpaw salad ($16) is also a flavoursome dish. And for those who like a challenge, try the jalapeno poppers with smoked paprika mayo ($15), which are stuffed to the brim with cheese and really pack a punch. The sharing menu is a clever addition for a venue like NSC, where people from all walks of life come to socialise, catch a gig and, now, be sent into rapturous fits of pleasure from eating that goddamn delicious pork belly.
Images by Luke Dalton.