The place is huge. That's what first hits me - well, that and the lampshades, but I'll get to those later. It's a large, ballroom-type hall full of tables of all sizes. There's a small balcony and pool table, and when the night gets late the tables are pushed aside for dancing and socialising.
I arrive early enough for dinner and order chilli garlic mussels, asparagus with egg and chorizo, and bread with house-made hummus. It's the first time I've had mussels and to be honest the texture kind of creeps me out, but whatever they're cooked in is delicious and I spend the next ten minutes gracelessly mopping up the juices with bread.
The house-made hummus (with Persian Fetta, lemon extra virgin olive oil and grilled Turkish bread) is a winner. I'm not sure when chick peas got so good, but man they got good.
As they say, everything on your plate was something else when it arrived - nothing is ordered-in.
The bartender knows a lot about beer but not too much about spirits, but I go ahead and order a Chambord with lemonade. There is some discussion about how much to charge - apparently it's usually only used to make cocktails - but a decent price is agreed on and I sip and my drink happily.
There's a friendly atmosphere between the staff that puts the whole place at ease, and extends to the bands, who stick around for a drink and a chat after the set.
Lampshades. That's what everyone comments on. They're plentiful, they're upside-down, they're oh-so-perfectly haphazard. You'll almost forget that there's also chandeliers. Yup, that's chandeliers, plural. And oh, the wallpaper!
Taking people there, you feel a little glow of coolness. It's not so much hard to find as very easy to walk past. Sydney Road may be full of well-known diners and watering holes but this is still a bit of an unknown. And you know about it, you hip young thing you.
It's sort of old-time, sort of retro, sort of hipster, and somehow still a family restaurant before about 9pm. The beardy bartender invents drinks and names them after himself in a non-arrogant way (if you're reading this, Mr Bartender, please name your next one the Beardy Bartender). There's table service for food and shiny wood flooring mosaic-ed into a centrepoint.
I'd love to recommend it to you, but I just don't want my new favourite place to get overcrowded...
The Spotted Mallard is located at 314 Sydney Rd, Brunswick. Go in the door and up the stairs. Opening hours are Tuesday to Friday 4pm to 1am, Saturday 2pm to 1am, and Sunday 2pm to 11pm. Reservations can be made online or by calling (03) 9380 8818.