Set in Castlemaine’s 1906-built fire station, Public Inn plates up Euro-inspired dishes and pours wines directly from the wall of barrels stationed behind the bar.
This means the restaurant can purchase entire barrels from winemakers, and pour as little or as much as a diner would like: from a glass to a carafe to a litre, and various increments in between. It also means less packaging and reducing “wine miles”.
On the food front, the kitchen draws inspiration from European classics yet infuses them with local flavours. This translates to the likes of Wagyu tartare with wattleseed, lemon myrtle, foraged bunya nut, Tabasco jelly and golden beetroot. There’s also a dish of pig served four ways – as roasted suckling, terrine, rillette and shards of crispy pork skin – accompanied by caramelised pearl onion, house-pickled walnuts and pear.
Public Inn moved into the old fire station in 2015, following its cafe counterpart re-PUBLIC in 2010. A heavy, red-velvet curtain hangs between the two venues.
The cafe serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Elements of the rebuild speak to the building’s origins – the peaked corrugated iron roof, exposed timber trusses, rendered brick walls, and a garage door that’s been replaced by fire-engine-red window frames, so diners can sit at the bar and look out to the street.