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?
There are a few interesting beers on tap (such as the James Squire range) to complement the standards. Plus your usual wines and cocktails.
So, Marly Bar, I'm indebted to you for showing me how to embrace the drinking culture of my adopted city. I think the least I can do is drop by for a beer next Wednesday.