My first impression of the Marlborough Hotel wasn't good. Coming from Melbourne, I'm more partial to secret bars, hidden down graffiti covered alleyways. This large, centrally located, well-lit establishment seemed impersonal to my unskilled eye. But, I'm a cheapskate at heart, so the offer of free trivia and a bargain dinner deal (including a schooner of James Squire Ale!) convinced me to give it a chance.
Front Bar at the Marlborough Hotel
After just a couple of beers, I realised how wrong my first impression had been. Friendly staff, entertaining trivia and great food soon had me affectionately calling the place 'Marly Bar,' just like a local. Snooty, backstreet bars in Melbourne are all very well, but they certainly won't serve you a $7 cocktail or a $10 jug.
Known as a student favourite, because of its great prices, the hotel actually caters to a more sophisticated crowd as well. It's divided into five areas: The Deck, which is probably a little cold for this time of year, but I'll try out in summer. The recently-opened Cellar cocktail bar. Bar Prego for restaurant-style food. Level One, where you can get $7 cocktails from 6.30pm to 8pm every day. And the main bar, where I spent my Wednesday evening battling trivia with friendly rivals.
The menu is standard pub fare (unless you head to Bar Prego) – pizzas, pastas, steaks and the like. Serving sizes aren't huge, but it's done well, and when you can get a $10.50 'steak or schnitzel & schooner combo' any day of the week, who's complaining?