Pub: Grace Darling Hotel
Where: 114 Smith St Collingwood
Date: 26 October 2012
Beautiful, historical bluestone pub, the Grace Darling has been a fixture as a trading hotel for over 150 years, and once inside it is easy to be taken on a time travel back to Melbourne in the 1850’s.
TGD claims to be Melbourne’s second oldest pub, and I’m happy to take them at their word (you end up in an argument of oldest or longest continuous trading - Macs, City, holds the honour of oldest trading) and was the original meeting place of the Collingwood FC (two point deduction!!).
The pub has had a reputation of doing food and drink at a sharper, gastronomic end - certainly when run by the Gowings - but now trades more in keeping with its amenity.
It has a sensational, welcoming front bar at street level, its alfresco area in Sackville st is well shaded, and there is a lower level dining room. and atrium.
The pub proudly champions craft beers - the popular Mountain Goat and Coopers on tap for starters - and the wine list is very different, with little known labels featured. Good.
The food menu doesn’t extend beyond 10 or so offerings, but there is a point of difference here that appeals. There are some items on the lunch menu cheaper than at dinner, where a slightly reduced menu is offered.
But just walk in and have a look; leadlight windows, low level lighting and candles, leather couches, polished floor boards, fireplace. It is user, local friendly. The pub encourages local musicians to have a crack live in the Grace Room.
Smith St polarises views, but TGD hotel fits in perfectly.
It is some time since I have reviewed the Grace Darling, but I think they have the formula right with this version. Fundamental to a pubs success in the inner ‘burbs is a great front bar; here it is drop dead gorgeous.
The Coopers Lager (not as prominent as its pale or sparkling) tasted fine, but here raised the pub’s only blemish - the glassware.
The pot failed to retain any lace - that white web you should see in side the glass - which meant it hadn’t been treated with the recommitted cleaner and as a result means the head of the beer isn’t retained. Just a tad more care needed.
Other than that, the rest of the offer is fine.
Goats curd and beetroot tart (18), char grilled squid and anchovy (24), chicken liver parfait with pedro ximinez jelly screams different; the wines from all Australia come from boutique vineyards and are fairly priced.
The menu changes with the seasons but its winning constant is their front bar that they exploit to fullest extent.
- Spicy chicken wings - 6 for $5. Heavy coating of paprika, the wings were a tasty hot starter. If you like spicy, come grab some; if not, better to pass,
- Angus beef burger, chips - $15. Lunch time special, it arrives on a board, brioche bun with a smoky bacon playing best supporting actor. Really good burger, terrifically priced at lunch,
- Fish of the day special - $30. Char-grilled swordfish, (just) medium, Nicoise salad. Cooked as ordered, what looked to be on the small side, was a filling main. Swordfish can be stuffed up (overcooked), but not here. The salad was a beauty,
- Mount Monument Reisling - $47. Aromatic, sweet to my palate, from a boutique maker, MMR comes from grapes from Mount Macedon region and their 2011 vintage is a very nice drop; me thinks even better with age.
TGD ticks over so well after all the changes on ownership. It has to pitch its offer to locals in and around Smith St., without the push from pokies/TAB, in the knowledge that bars/food outlets continue to flourish inner city.
The pub works simply because its best assets are utilised to the maximum. The offer has points of difference that want you to come back and explore.
Good luck to the new owners.