Pub bistros are a hit and miss affair for us. They either serve up overpriced hamburgers in a lame gastropub attempt or aren't worth shaking the salt cellar over their soggy chips. But the Meridian Hotel is a little bit of wonderful.
Mr Shawn loses himself in nostalgia in the bistro, it reminds him of the old style pub counter lunches his parents would take him to as a child of the 1970s. These days however the menu is Chinese\Vietnamese instead of Skippy\Pommie, we dine on pho and fried noodles instead of meat'n'three veg. We couldn't say it's the best food in Hurstville but it's good and cheap, plus we can have a schooner with it. And we love the atmosphere, it's like an RSL magically transported to Hong Kong.
We arrive early because it can be hard to get a table at lunch time, the joint packs out with tops old Chinese Aunties and Uncles, and other notorious bargain hunters. The other reason we arrive early is that we've developed a penchant for an 11am schooner. Just one. On the weekends. Alright?
On our first visit there's the most awesome old guy taking orders at the counter. He must have been doing it forever because customers greet him like a long lost relative. We see a pair of little kiddies run over to him arms outstretched, giggling with joy. Lovely.
The ordering process is simple and straightforward. 1. Place order at counter, pay, receive number. 2. Grab chopsticks, hoisin sauce, fresh chili, spoons and napkins. 3. Get beer. 4. Food arrives.
Chicken laksa $8.50. Ah laksa, the ramen of the 90's. We are still getting our mouths back around them after overdoing it a bit back then. This one has a great thinner style broth similar to a hokkein or prawn mee and lots of shredded chicken to pile in with the noodles. We think laksa-heads may poo-poo it but we love the prawny flavour to the broth. Also available with beef or pork.
Pork chop with tomato rice $8.50. Andrea Nguyen at Viet World Kitchen calls red rice a 'diaspora dish', something created by expat Vietnamese to resemble a celebratory red rice dish called xoi gac. This version is a little sweeter than her red fried rice, with the pork chop a tasty side.
Vietnamese beef rice noodle soup $7.50. Nearly everyone in the bistro had this soup when we went earlier on a Sunday morning. A good simple version with plenty of beef and a big serve of noodles. The self shred-to-taste basil was really pungent, creating a heady aroma when broken in to the soup. If you're after a serious pho fix in Hurstville then we reckon Miss Saigon across the road is a better pick. But if you fancy a beer with your pho or saving a couple bucks, then come to the pub.
Special on the board - Duck maryland with mushrooms and choice of noodle $8.50. We chose egg noodle which work wonders in this more Chinese style soup. The dried mushroom has soaked up the soup and is too good to share. $8.50 for duck maryland, no wonder this joint is packed.
Billboard of the fine fare outside the entrance. There's even some skippy dishes at the top, there's something for us. The gourmet Evel Knievel within urges us to try the lobster mornay. Better wear a helmet for that one.
Afterwards, why not take home a Sexy Mummy (cake) at the Diamond Bakery across the road? Eat too much cake, you won't be a sexy mummy for long.
Meridian Hotel is at 220 Forest Road, Hurstville. Get in early, we've seen queues out the door at peak lunch times. Our other favourite pub food is the brilliant Thai bistro run by Crocodile Senior at Charlie Chan's, George Street, Chinatown.