Review : Dinner - The Gem
If you frequent the North, you probably already have a soft spot for The Gem - that welcoming front bar, generously filled with attractive 20- and 30-somethings in an atmosphere which makes your future plans for that evening melt away. It's hard to leave The Gem and even more so after you've had a crack at their Winter menu. And by that I mean it's nearly physically impossible unless you're being rolled out the door.
Tucked away behind the front bar, The Gem Dining Room greets punters with a classy billiard room style with enough cow hide and bullhorn to make any Buckhunter aficionado immediately at home. Despite appearances, there are a number of vegetarian options and The Gem Dining Room keeps up with their popular pub classics like Guinness pie and their signature Brazilian fish stew (I wish that dish never had to end).
All the dishes in The Gem Dining Room are immaculately presented and I was pleasantly surprised by the creativity and detail on each plate. The John Dory special was seared to perfection, presented alongside a slightly underwhelming escargot, which seemed more exciting in writing than it was in my mouth. But escargot on a pub menu? It's a good sign. It's a chef who takes a risk, a bit of adventure, and a gentle push for pub lovers to enjoy exciting, new food experiences in a different context.
You'll be at The Gem soon, I know, so if you're spending some time waiting for mates in the front bar it's time to sample the sincerely glorious buttermilk fried chicken tenderloins with the greatest smoky chipotle mayo on the planet, or a near-perfect saganaki (haloumi's slightly more rubbery sister, tough cheese to master in the pan). In fact, it would be easy to sit in The Gem's front bar and snack all night on the tapas style entrée menu. Each dish is generous, flavoursome and perfectly complemented by an icy pot of your favourite beer and the smooth sounds of the banjo from that gorgeous lass on the mic.
The Gem is working hard to create a thoughtful gastronomical experience, a far cry from traditional pub crowd pleasers. The future of pub food lies in their carefully handcrafted pork and fennel sausage with delicate whipped potato and moorish braised cabbage, not another bloody parma. Hit up the Friday night paella special to sample the detailed flavours and generous servings from The Gem and you'll be planning to come back for more as soon as you've bought yourself a pair of elastic-waisted pants.
The Gem Bar & Dining Room is at 289 Wellington St, Collingwood. You can contact them on 9419 5170.