Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Horseshoe Inn at Cambridge May 2013

Tempura mushrooms

Prawn cocktail

Seafood chowder

Chicken cotoletta

Seafood feast

Pepper steak
The name “Horseshoe Inn” sounds romantic and olde worlde to me. It sounds like the sort of place I might like to get married at, and have a wedding full of old fashioned confections and traditions. The Horseshoe Inn at Cambridge is not that place!

It’s a scungy, dingy looking establishment which must be one of the few round town that haven’t been bought kicking and screaming into the 21st century and renovated within an inch of its life! It still touts its old fashioned individual booths, designed to probably seat at least 6 people and its daggy internal fittings. Having said that, I find it extremely refreshing to go somewhere where I don’t feel I have to be wearing my Country Road clothes, and where my humble little car doesn’t look out of place in the carpark alongside the utes, holdens etc! In a word, it’s an unpretentious pub, and one I’d like to preserve in all its quaintness for posterity.

In my 64 years living in Hobart I have never been tempted to venture inside this little country pub, despite it being so close in proximity to me for five years back in the 70’s when I lived at 7 Mile Beach and there was, at that time, no such thing as a pub or eatery at 7 Mile Beach or its environs. So it was a quiet landmark day for me yesterday to actually enter the portals!

Hopefully you now get the picture of a humble little country-style pub quietly ticking along, year after year.

Word on the street recently is that the Horseshoe Inn is feeding good pub food to masses of people daily and nightly. That you most definitely have to book well in advance of eating there. That you can’t just be driving past, and on a whim, decide to stop there for a feed. I had heard all that from quite a few, so decided yesterday was the day for Rita to check it out.

Despite a misunderstanding, which was only discovered when we arrived there and were sitting in the car in the carpark, about who was meant to book our table there, we managed to secure a booth. It was a Tuesday and it was lunch time and it was after 1.00, so maybe we just had good luck securing an unbooked seat. There were only two other booths (of about 8) occupied, and it certainly wasn’t overcrowded and full of the busy restaurant buzz and noise I expected. A fact which overjoyed me! I hate that impersonal busyness, where, as a patron, you get the feeling you’re just a means to an end, and that the owner is regarding you as just another dollar in the bank for him.

You order at the bar, from menus that are placed on the tables, so we debated a while then ordered. The entrees were reasonably prompt in arriving, followed by mains, but not that fast that we got the impression that they were trying to get rid of us so staff could go home, or close off the kitchen for evening preparation.

We ordered:
Tempura mushrooms ($15)
Seafood chowder ($13)
Prawn cocktail ($16)
Chicken Cotteletta ($25)
Seafood Feast ($25)
Scotch Fillet, 300 gm, with pepper sauce ($24)

The tempura looked like little doughnuts on the plate when it arrived, and tasted similarly. Guys – if you are calling it tempura mushrooms, you need to use a way lighter batter than the heavy one used on your entrée. It really was hard to distinguish actual mushroom alongside the heavy batter consistency when you had a mouthful.

My prawn cocktail wasn’t the little ice cream sundae bowl full of shredded lettuce, prawns and cocktail sauce that I had mentally envisaged! It was a bowl full of all the above! The sauce was fine but, strangely, had the appearance of a large dollop of whipped cream. It was a generous serving and I struggled to finish it, but I was happy enough with it.

The chowder was an absolute masterpiece. I love a seafood chowder, and to date my prize one has been Cornelian Bay Boathouse’s little chowdery number, but Horseshoe’s topped theirs well and truly. Bec ordered this dish, and halfway through, realized she had what sounded like a large meal coming for mains, so she reluctantly stopped eating, leaving the plate sitting on the table, ready for collection by waitstaff.

Then came the epoch-making clearing of the table! And do you want to know what converted me from being a mere customer eating a meal there to a dyed-in-the-wool fan of Horseshoe Inn? When our friendly waitress came to clear back, she noticed Bec had chowder left and asked if it had been alright – as you should if you’re any kind of competent waiter! THEN – after we had obviously raved about the fabulousness of the chowder – she asked if we’d like her to pop it into a takeaway container to take home for later! I quizzed her about every other dining establishments protocols about not letting you take your leftovers home due to “food poisoning issues” – which I generally consider a load of absolute tosh, but they never do let you bring your leftovers home.

Yeah, yeah, before you come all “you’d have patrons suing us if they get food poisoning from leftovers if we let you take it home” etc, I understand that. But for me, I simply can’t generally eat the amount of food usually placed in front of me. My tummy simply won’t accept the volume and richness of many dishes I select off a menu. And despite them being absolute standout meals, I have to wave goodbye to them as they are carried off to the rubbish bin in the kitchen! That saddens me greatly, and has been a bugbear of mine for many years.

I now always carry a takeaway container of my own in my bag, plus two ziplock bags, so if I choose to, I can take home any leftovers without having to ask permission of waitstaff. I figure I am transferring the responsibility of my possible food poisoning (yeah, right!!) to me, and I genuinely do enjoy finishing my meal at home, at a time convenient to me.

The mains were hugely filling, and way too big for all of us, so when, again, waitress asked if we’d like to take our leftovers home, naturally we all said yes – and we did.

The food was not breathtakingly haute cuisine and cutting edge trendy food. It was simple pub food such as you’d expect to get at a pub like this one. It represented good value for money, and was tasty. It was no more or no less than what I had envisioned, and, for me, that was a bonus.

I asked our waitress about who their chef was and she explained they had 4 chefs there, headed up by David Robertshaw, who I remember as working many years ago at Maloneys. I don’t know what he has been up to since then, but I think Horseshoe Inn is a fine place to add to your resume.

I would have liked a Banana Fritter for dessert but I honestly couldn’t fit a single thing more in, so had to go without.

When asked about what made our meal so different and special there yesterday (as I was on Facebook last night), my response is that Horseshoe doesn’t pretend to be anything else but what it is, and combining that with the breathtakingly generous offer of allowing us to take home our leftovers (we quite obviously weren’t the only ones to be offered this service), it is now a firm favourite of mine, for the reasons stated, and I will sing its praises whenever required.

For a dining out experience, there is no way I would ever consider eating there, preferring favoured places like Beltana, Fish Frenzy, Red Velvet Lounge, Castray Esplanade Food and Wine etc etc. But for what we wanted yesterday, it was perfect.

Horseshoe Inn
860 Cambridge Road
Ph: 6248 5010
Posted on by Rita


Christina said...

There should be a "like" button Rita, I have nothing more to add, you've done a wonderful job describing The Horseshoe Inn.
Haven't been for years but sounds like nothing has changed. Know people that have been consistently and recently and they all back you up.
Great review!

Rita said...

Thanks Christina. You probably need to pop out there and re-acquaint yourself with it!

Anonymous said...

Pleeeeeeeeze tell me that isn't PARSLEY sprinkled around the rim of every plate? Hullo, 1971 ;)

Anonymous said...

Great review!

I drive past this pub almost every day on my way home from work, but haven't yet made the time to drop by. I've also heard good reviews of the place and really should make the effort to give it a crack!

Unknown said...

Rita, thanks for such an in-depth, informative and interesting write up. This is somewhere I've always meant to try but never actually managed to do. Susie

Anonymous said...

Sean Keating freefall boy has joined the team at Jo Chromy..........after 18months under German michellin god Jan Gundlach........he has returned with what he is calling culinary slingshot........eeeeeek

Rita said...

That's very interesting Anon 6.23. I wondered where he was now.

Pete & Anne of Berwick said...

My wife & I had tea there last night, before flying out this morning to Melbourne, great food, great service, value for money after staying at Strahan for 4 nights and being a bit disappointed by the pub feeds down there.
After we ate the owner spoke to us at length in the bar as they were booked out in the bistro.
He seems to be running a bloody good show.
Next time we are in Tassie we will be eating there !
Very friendly place and staff.