The Grace Darling Hotel

114 Smith St, Collingwood, VIC

All Details
  • 9416 0055

Nina Rousseau

Grace Darling Hotel.  Summer peach, heirloom tomotaos, Buffalo Mozzarella and purple Basil salad.
Photo: Rebecca Hallas

PUB dining is a tricky beast. Soar too high and you'll lose the casual, knockabout essence of lobbing into the local for a well-priced counter meal. Swim too low and the quality of ingredients suffers.

Grace Darling's new head chef Craig Huntley brilliantly treads the line with a smart menu that delivers fine dining at pub prices. He is a coup for the Grace, with stints at London's River Cafe, Kensington Place and recently at Balzari (sadly, now closed).

The food stays true to pub classics - burger, steak, chicken parma - but with a Mediterranean-European spin and a monthly menu to keep things seasonal. Ingredients are quality, the treatments simple.

On Tuesdays there are pasta nights (handmade pastas with a northern Italian focus; two vegetarian, two meat, one fish) and ''shwarma Sundays'' are devoted to the charcoal grill, such as Jamaican jerk chicken and grilled corn.

Snacky starters swing from chorizo, bouncy and juicy with blackened roasted peppers, to porcini croquettes made with dried mushroom and buttery mashed potato.

Corn cobs are lovely and charred, topped with grated manchego and smoked paprika, and the labna, teamed with a simple broad bean salad, is made from a ''mother yoghurt'' fed each week with milk.

The pub itself is a massive old bluestone beauty, opened in 1854, glammed up a couple of years back by five new owners with solid hospitality credentials.

Wine glasses are topped up as needed, the food comes when it's meant to, even at peak times, and the service is young, cool and friendly.

The wagyu burger rocks. The bun is crisp on the outside, soft inside, the 200-gram wagyu patty (meat, herbs, caramelised onion) cooked medium-rare and draped with melted gruyere. There's a coleslaw and Dijon mustard mayo, speared with a house-made dill pickle.

The steak is a cheap cut - the flank, near the back end of the belly. It's served rare and sliced, with all the chewy bits already cut out, and is simply finished with pummelled Australian garlic. Huntley was told the chicken parma had to stay. His version is breast, stuffed with gruyere and topped with a rich, crumble-style mix of pancetta and chunky breadcrumbs and basil. If you're a diehard parma fan, this mightn't be for you. If you like a great chicken dish, stick around.

The Grace is rock'n'roll dining with sophistication. Wing it in the loud front bar, book for the boisterous dining room and later head upstairs to the band room.

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The Local Taphouse About 20 beers on tap, great vibe and a thumping vegie burger to boot. 184 Carlisle Street, St Kilda East, 9537 2633.

The Royston Gastropub offerings, craft beers and trivia on Wednesdays (book ahead). 12 River Street, Richmond, 9421 5000. nrousseau@theage.com.au

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Where 114 Smith Street, Collingwood, 9416 0055

Prices Small share plates, $5-$18; mains, $18-$28; desserts, $9-$12

Cards Amex MC V Eftpos

Licensed

Open Tues-Thurs, 3pm-1am; Fri-Sat, noon-1am; Sun, noon-11pm (dining room closes 10pm)

Website thegracedarlinghotel.com.au

Cuisine Pub food

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114 Smith St, Collingwood, VIC

  • Prices - Small share plates, $5-$18; mains, $18-$28; desserts, $9-$12
  • Features - Licensed
  • Cards accepted - AMEX, Mastercard, Visa, EFTPOS
  • Opening Hours - Tues-Thurs, 3pm-1am; Fri-Sat, noon-1am; Sun, noon-11pm (dining room closes 10pm)
  • Author - Nina Rousseau
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1 review so far

  • Rating: 0.5 out of 5 stars

    Customer service leaves a lot to be desired! One bartender was particularly rude to a few people in our group. We were met with dirty looks and rude comments by one particular pretentious bar tender. Staff also did not know their products. A friend asked what was on the tasting plate and he was very vague. I'd hate to think of people who have allergies. When asking for wines on the specials board staff did not know that they even stocked it! They had also run out of quite a few wines. It is a shame as the building is lovely and the atmosphere could be so much better! Not going back due to bad service, it wrecked the night and the atmosphere.

    Commenter
    Panda4
    Location
    Date and time
    December 25, 2012, 5:32PM

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