Insouciant bon-vivant and erstwhile troubadour prone to verbose verbiage.
Published April 18th 2012
Named after a Darling of Victorian England when it was constructed in 1854 the bluestone Grace Darling Hotel retains a good degree of its "ye olde" charm without sacrificing any 21st century creature comforts.
The Grace Darling Hotel, Collingwood
The front bar gives three sides of the rectangle to the parlour meaning patrons can crowd around for service and not wait too long during their peak times. Without overly loud music pumping from the speakers you can actually hold a conversation over the general hubbub of a busy establishment without yelling directly into the ears of your interlocutors.
Should a game of football be played somewhere it is likely that the TV in the corner will be showing it so sport addicts can be happy in the knowledge that they can get their fix at the Grace. It's not a big screen however so "Non-users" don't have to be worried about transfixed yobbos yelling encouragement at metrosexual athletes who can't actually hear them.
Pleasingly I can get a bottle of one of my favourite drops the "Weisenstephaner Heffeweissbier Dunkel'. The great thing about this beer is that if I begin to over indulge I can no longer pronounce the name and hence, after drawing blank stares from the bar staff, am forced to cease drinking (the thought of switching to an inferior beer being too much to bear you see).
Walking through the front bar you come to the real feature of the hotel, its bistro. I would definitely describe this venue as a 'foodie' pub. It offers many of your traditional pub fare but with an epicure's spin. The cheeseburger has become a chargrilled wagyu burger with truffle mayonnaise, fish n chips has become "seasonal market fish" and the yardstick of pub food that is the Parma morphs into the free range chicken parmagiana with pancetta and pangratta.
For those with more of a gastronomic bent there are also some items that should please the Masterchef watching food critic: tre costini, homemade tuna mojama and pigs head terrine make up some of the more 'culinarily' adventurous items on the menu. There really is a very good variety and, despite the high brow nature of the menu, the prices remain at your typical bistro levels.
In the tradition of Melbourne's inner north as one of the last bastions of live music the Grace has one final card up its sleeve; upstairs in what must have once been the accommodation area resides a small corner stage with a bar.
According to the bartender I spoke to the Grace barely even breaks even from the bandroom, however the owners are more than happy to keep struggling musicians from busking in the rain. The room is just the right size for a line-up that would pull 60-100 (though you could squeeze more in at a pinch) allowing for bands with smaller followings to play to a room that doesn't echo back its emptiness.
The Grace Darling Bandroom
All in all I find the Grace a great place to go either for a few quiet drinks, a gastronomic adventure, to hear one of my friends' bands play or a pleasant combination of all three activities.