Insouciant bon-vivant and erstwhile troubadour prone to verbose verbiage.
Published April 9th 2012
Anything that you collide with in your car always seems to appear out of nowhere, when in reality it was never invisible and is in fact an all too solid a reality. Similarly, the first time I stumbled upon the Stags Head Hotel it was as if a pub had simply sprung out of a typical suburban streetscape. Flanked on all sides by houses and, though not far from the Nelson Pde precinct, definitely off the beaten track, the Stags Head Hotel is a surviving vestige of the day when the million dollar Victorian style cottages of Williamstown were dock workers' hovels.
Conveniently located adjacent to the township's locomotive terminus for the compulsively bibulous who have been deemed by society, via the courts, as being unfit for the operation of an automobile (i.e. it's next to the train station so those alcoholics who have lost their licence for drink driving have easy access) this pub is delightfully old school in the front bar. Middle aged locals hold court on all the current issues and have the answers to society's ills if only those in high places would give them a few minute's audience.
Tacitly observing all this from above the (now gas) fireplace is the pub's mascot (below). I am against animal cruelty in all its forms but can't help finding this decoration totally in context. No doubt this head has seen a great deal since the pub was built in 1887 and readers I am resisting the urge to make a "he's legless" joke.
The Stags Head's stag's head
Moving away from the blokeville time capsule of the front bar, the restaurant offers punters your tried and true pub favourites. It appears that the owners are however making way for a renovation to its available menu in the restaurant section: a blackboard by the fireplace promises patrons that new chefs with a new menu are coming soon. The locals and the stag himself appear unfazed by this impending arrival and I can only hypothesise re the irony of adding a venison dish to the menu.
The courtyard would no doubt be an ideal place to spend a sunny weekend afternoon with a few friends while the main bar offers more space for patrons not interested in discussing the hot topics with the regulars. Mental note to return when Melbourne's skies are not raining ruin upon any outdoor Easter plans.
The venue does not really have provision to be anything more than it currently is which, aptly surmised by the Epicure quote on its website, is "An old fashioned neighbourhood pub with a relaxed vibe and cheap hearty nosh". Its available space and its close proximity to residential properties prevent the possibility of expanding to a late night live music or wild rave party venue - local musicians do get a go from Thursday to Saturday but, like much of Williamstown, the wee small hours are best whiled away in bed or elsewhere.
It would be a shame if the place did change much; it seems to me to be a positive example of the old fashioned pub, with a real camaraderie amongst the regulars in the front bar who have a welcome smile for random wayfarers, such as my good self. After a pot or two at the Stags Head, I couldn't help but feel that all was well with the world and there was some hope for humanity after all; mind you a couple of pots can do that.
Have walked past the Stags Head pub so will investigate next time as always in search of real food instead of the false facade of other establishments in Williamstown more intriguenly is the pub on the front that has all the windows boarded up & doors blocked up with blue stone. Anyone now the story behind it?