Jim's Greek Tavern

Grilled snapper from Jim's Greek Tavern in Collingwood.
Grilled snapper from Jim's Greek Tavern in Collingwood. Photo: Eddie Jim

32 Johnston Street Collingwood, VIC

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Opening hours Daily 6pm-midnight
Features Licensed
Seats 200
Payments Diner's Club, eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 03 9419 3827

WHERE AND WHAT

Rowdy, brash and rollicking good fun, Jim's Greek Tavern has been a veteran of this stubbornly grungy stretch of Johnston Street for some 30 years. It's a case of forget all pretensions ye who enter. Waiters in white polo shirts, tea-towels draped rakishly over one shoulder, dash around dodging tables and diners - and issuing orders rather than taking them. ''You want dips? Saganaki? Fish? Meat?'' Just try saying no. As for the fish, whether it's whiting or snapper or something else, it's always ''the best!'' There's no menu, so you're at the waiters' mercy, and the bill can climb higher than you might expect - not that it seems to bother the crowds who converge on the Collingwood taverna night after night, lapping up the theatre along with their taramasalata.

WHERE TO SIT

There are several areas in this warren-like place and best is the main dining room out back, where you can nestle among concrete replicas of Greek goddesses and massive Greek urns, rows of anomalous yucca plants, requisite posters of Mediterranean isles and pots of basil. There's an open fire, too. Tables are set with sky-blue cloths topped with grease-catching paper and the napkins are paper as well. Forget niceties such as wine glasses. Tumblers are the go - and don't expect the water to be brought automatically.

WHEN TO GO

It's open for dinner every night from 6pm, with last orders about 11pm.

DRINK

BYO is best and corkage is free. Bring a slab of beer, put it in the fridge and help yourself. And if you run out of booze, there's the fallback of house red or white.

EAT

No-nonsense Greek fare that doesn't give a hoot about keeping up with the Calombarises. Conviviality is the name of the game - and it's a point of pride that everything is prepared in-house, from the bread and dips to the meat and fish, which is cleaned and cut on the premises. Chargrilled seafood, fish and meat are the house specialities - simply dressed in olive oil and herbs. Dips include a velvety, garlicky eggplant, a reasonable tzatziki and a taramasalata as salty, lemony and good as my Greek neighbours in Footscray used to make. Desserts are traditional faves - baklava, halva, Turkish delight - and the standout is the house-made galaktoboureko (custard cake), a smooth, wobbly delight, with syrupy filo pastry.

WHO'S THERE

Half of Melbourne, it seems - Greeks, Grecophiles, and boisterous families and groups of friends out on the hunt for a fuss-free feed.

WHY BOTHER

Because the atmosphere's Olympian - and the food's pretty good, too.

Jim's Greek Tavern, 32 Johnston Street, Collingwood, 9419 3827