Melbourne’s pub culture runs deep, and Victoria McDowall and Harry McArthur, having grown up there and spent a decade there respectively, wanted to channel a gastropub’s welcoming atmosphere at their new Wellington venue The Ram.
The Fred’s Sandwiches founders have taken over the long, high-ceilinged space that used to house Plum Cafe on Cuba Street.
It looks completely different after their short but intense set-up period. There’s a warm brick-red palette, deep-toned wood doweling along the walls and around the cosy booths, and round light fixtures casting a golden glow.
“People’s first reaction is they’re surprised about how big it feels comparatively to how it was beforehand,” McDowall tells Broadsheet.
The 60-seat space has been kitted out with Pitt & Giblin Superwax Mini loudspeakers, handmade in Tasmania from Tasmanian blackwood and bronze. “They’re a real highlight of the space, not only providing incredible sound but they also look beautiful,” says McDowall, who adds that they’re the first venue in New Zealand to have the speakers. “When you walk into the space and the music is loud but you can still hear each other talk, they’re worth their weight in gold.”
Upcoming DJ bookings on Fridays and Saturday nights will be giving the bespoke speakers a workout.
McDowall and McArthur, along with head chef Phil Barclay, intend The Ram to be an appealing go-to for high-quality comfort food – as well as a relaxed drink. Among the range of snacks and larger plates there are several dishes you'd think of as pub classics: chicken parmigiana (or eggplant for a vegetarian option), a fish burger with house tartare, Sunday roasts, and steak with fries and peppercorn sauce or cafe de Paris butter.
The potato fritters have been popular, says McDowall, served with malt vinegar and aioli as a riff on the Kiwi fish'n'chip shop favourite. So has the new lasagne with its slow-cooked beef and pork ragu, and the burrata with confit leek, chilli oil and chargrilled sourdough is “going down a treat”.
“Surprisingly enough, one of our biggest sellers has been our dessert,” she continues. It’s a miso caramel tiramisu that’s served tableside by one of the chefs, who dollops it onto your plate in a satisfying scoop. “We have people coming in just for the tiramisu and a glass of wine, which has been really nice.”
Drinks-wise, the wine list is concise but well-rounded. “We really feel like there’s something for everyone.” Negronis on tap have also been flying, and The Ram has a happy hour every weekday where they offer a $10 Negroni, $10 beer and $10 organic cider or pét-nat – along with $4 oysters.
For beer, there’s Garage Project and Parrotdog on tap, as well as rotating “guest” beers – but the tiramisu’s not the only surprise best-seller, as McDowall laughs about cans of VB being the most popular. “I said they’d never sell – now I’m eating my words.”
Mon, Weds & Thurs 3:30pm–midnight
Fri & Sat midday–1am