Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cafe Love - Public Inn, Castlemaine

The Charles Whyte Cafe Love series continues with a gastro pub in Central Victoria.

Driving through the historic streets of Castlemaine one Saturday, a stiking lightshade glowing an ambiant orange caught my eye. Later I would find out that these light shades are affectionately known as the testicle lights, but their likeness to the male anatomy is not what drew me to them (I swear). Our local companion told us that the lights were inside a gastro pub that opened only a week earlier in what was once the Criterion Hotel. Although already booked into another local hot spot for lunch, plans were quickly changed so we could make a swift u-turn to explore the Public Inn, the new kid on the block that shines like a beacon in the central Victorian goldfields.

I loved this place from the moment I saw the light from the street and I'll admit from the start that I was in a good frame of mind mind when I visited. Not only do I love the company I was keeping on this day, I love visiting Castlemaine so there was certainly a good vibe going on in my heart. However, I don't give love easily and despite this blog being all about the things that make my heart sing, this little heart does not sing in cafes or restaurants unless I taste some love in the decor, the service and the food - each facet of the trio must have me licking my lips for more. The Public Inn did not disappoint.

The use of natural wood features, high ceilings and a neutral colour scheme make the Public Inn immediately fresh, open and welcoming. The service could be described with the same adjectives, and no amount of incessant questioning on our part was too much for manager Carly. Not only were we interested in how particular dishes were cooked and where the ingredients were sourced (locally, of course), we also wanted to know where they found the sugar bowls, the beakers, the chairs and, of course, the light shades. Every question was answered and then some. How refreshing to receive such impeccable, attentive service.

Among the fresh, new features here are hints of the old, such as the exposed beams running over the front section of the venue. The console table pictured above cannot go without mention either. Along with the dark glass sugar bottles (see below image) and wine beakers, this piece is reminiscent of a laboratory and brings an element of industrial chic.

One of the Public Inn's partners is Hayden Winch, formally of the Dispensary Enoteca, a venue that bowled the Bendigo food scene over. Food here is good. For our lunchtime visit, we chose entree serves and that's what we got. We didn't leave hungry but perhaps we were missing that very full and content feeling of eating a little more when dining out!

King prawn and fennel risotto with crayfish oil - entree serving $17

Public Inn mushroom 'soffritto', cherry and pear tomatoes and olive toast $26

Wild mushroom and Madeira risotto with truffle puree - entree serving $14

Delicious coffee rounded off a relaxed, weekend lunch. 
Wines at the Public Inn are served to you straight from the barrel to your glass and the barrels on the wall make for a striking feature. 

The Public Inn will suit those looking for a meal in the country with professional service and execution in a classy and relaxed setting. I'm looking forward to another trip north to check on their progress.

Public Inn on Urbanspoon

Public Inn
Criterion Corner
Barker and Mostyn Streets
Castlemaine, Victoria 3450

Phone: 03 5472 3568


  1. An absolute wank and expensive
    Impressive selection of beers helped ease the pain

  2. Love your photos, you've captured the elements that I like about The Public Inn. Cheers




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