As a child growing up at the Imperial Hotel in York, John Blackburn always ran up the stairs to avoid the “boogies” that lived below.
Almost a century later, John’s parents, his daughter Robyn, his granddaughter Myra and his great-grandchildren Rosanna and Hugo – along with Robyn’s husband, Geoff, and yours truly – have returned to the Filigree historic Victorian building on Avon Terrace for lunch and to find out if there were any ghosts still lurking.
Although no unbottled spirits were spotted in the 1886 hotel, which local farming families revived four years ago as the Imperial Homestead, we did conjure up a brilliant country pub meal featuring arguably the best lamb shank I have ever had.
After driving from Perth, we grabbed a table in the busy courtyard between the main building and the old stables, which are now used for accommodation. Despite a cold Saturday afternoon, the Imperial seemed well populated with locals, visitors and a few large groups celebrating birthdays.
Despite the current difficulties in finding hospitality workers in Perth, let alone WA’s oldest inland town in the country of Ballardong Noongar, Chef Angelo Mamode and his team have met demand and exceeded expectations. admittedly modest.
The menu at Imperial Homestead reads like a greatest hits compilation of pub classics, plus a few curries.
The wine list is great and great value with two sparklings, plus eight whites and reds by the glass for $7-$9. The most expensive bottle is $65 with plenty of solid options around the $50 mark.
The wine by the glass was even better given the generosity of the bar staff. Robyn, who grew up in Harvey, describes the services as “country verses”. One pinot noir glass in particular wasn’t too far from having a meniscus.
Interestingly, the list of basic taps included an extra pale beer from Eclipse Brewing, a century-old brand revived from former York rival Northam.
While the adults enjoyed a cold middy or an inexpensive glass of wine, Rosie and Hugo got stuck into their children’s meals.
Of the four options, we opted for the popcorn chicken and beef sliders. Both were $15.50, came with tokens, and the sliders were a pair, making it easy to split between our hungry offspring.
We also had bruschetta; Decent sized slices of baguette topped with diced tomatoes, red onions, feta and pesto, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Simple but effective.
The garlic prawns (available as a starter or main course) weren’t particularly garlicky and were swimming in a creamy sauce that would have suited a linguine or fettuccine better.
Then came our four main courses, each a quintessence and elevation of country tucker.
Geoff had the filet mignon, medium to well done (he’s a baby boomer, bless him) with a deliciously tangy blue cheese sauce and bacon marmalade ($40.50). It was well cooked and the sauce was a ripper.
Robyn had the crispy pork belly, which was perched on a pile of layered saffron potatoes plus a piperade of green beans, peppers, mushrooms and artichokes ($39.50).
Under the crackling, the pork belly tore open and was skilfully accompanied by a vodka and a red fruit coulis.
Myra opted for the pub classic of pub classics – chicken schnitzel. The impressively sized breaded bird came with a super peppery green peppercorn sauce and a pathetic token salad, as tradition dictates ($31.50).
My wife was a bit disappointed with the schnitty. Not that there was anything wrong with his meal, it’s just that the other dishes were a cut above – especially mine.
After driving through fields full of sheep on the road to York, I couldn’t pass the braised lamb shank (an absolute bargain at $27.50).
The plate was beautiful. The large, fist-sized shank was accompanied by three globes of creamy mashed potatoes and roasted zucchini, broccolini, squash and baby carrots, all sitting in a shallow pool of savory juices and tomato reduction.
The latter looked like ketchup and was squirted randomly around the periphery of my plate like it was still 90s. The other dishes also had various smears and drizzles for cosmetic purposes, but perhaps negligible flavor.
After admiring my dish for a while, I slid the leg bone off with barely any strength like I was King Arthur claiming Excalibur. It was clean as a whistle. The bone, not the mythical sword.
The slow cooked Avon Valley lamb was fit for a king or queen. The pink meat was deliciously creamy.
Another diner stopped by our table to ask if the lamb was as good as it looked. It was better and, at that price, the best flight of sheep since Waltzing Matilda.
While the Imperial Homestead has a few regular desserts on the menu, there are more cakes (and scones, hello CWA!) displayed on the bar. All are around the $10 mark.
We shared a hot and sticky date pudding with caramel sauce, cream and ice cream. It was smooth and lighter than your usual pub pud, offering pleasant nostalgic notes of caramel, cinnamon and nutmeg.
We also grabbed a big slice of pecan pie, which warmed up with toasty flavors and perfect shortcrust pastry. It was another lovely home style dish and concluded a wonderful lunch.
All that was left was to walk around York trying to get rid of some of the food.
We visited Penny Farthing Sweets, the Motor Museum, random antique stores, and the new Avon Park Playground in a futile effort to get rid of lamb fat.
83 Avon Terrace, York
Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., 5:30 p.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., 5:30 p.m.-9 p.m. Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., 5:30 p.m.-8 p.m.
9689 4239, imperialhomestead.com.au
Large groups only
Extensive menu packed with pub classics, a great value wine list and old fashioned country fare. Anyone going to the York Show or York Festival in September would do far worse than stop by the Imperial Homestead for a filling and comforting meal. Shanks for memories!