The Vine Hotel Dinner Review
Stepping into The Vine Hotel is like stepping back in time. The Collingwood pub has had a change of ownership recently, but the décor doesn't seem to have changed since the mid-seventies. It has what you might call a "strong look", however, a warm red radiance from the exposed brick, high, cork-lined ceilings and abundant wood panelling that delivers in atmosphere what it lacks in style. At a cluster of high bench tables in the front room, a meat-lovers bar menu is served for well under twenty dollars a plate. "It's not vegetarian friendly," admits publican Ron, "But we're always happy to whip something up." The wide selection of protein-filled classic ranges from your must-have parma to rissoles, fish and chips and shepherd's pie, while those with a more adventurous (or retro kitsch) palate can dive into the lamb's fry, crumbed brains or corned beef, all highly recommended. With a wine list sporting half a dozen young reds and whites by the glass, you can have a tidy meal for around $25 and a quiet game of darts when you're done.
The back room of The Vine serves as a slightly more upmarket bistro, with an extensive menu of entrees through desserts and a notable hike in the price per plate. The wooden struts bracing the low ceiling are decked fairy lights, which gives the rustic room a little homespun romance and makes it a good spot for group meals (especially in winter, I imagine, when the open fire is blazing). The menu out back is hearty and familiar, made for men with simple tastes and big appetites. Calamari, oysters Kilpatrick and Ceasar salad feature in the entrees, while the list of mains reflects the front bar fare, with at least four versions of veal to choose from besides the bangers and mash and braised lamb shank.
The specials menu sports a few hidden gems, including the tasty roasted quail with cubed beetroot and walnut on a bed of endive and radicchio - a beautifully cooked bird that is full of juicy flavour. The slow roasted lamb shoulder is also surprisingly good, almost-caramelised with a delicious Chermoula glaze and soft enough to fall right off of the bone, served with cloudy mash and crunchy green beans (and when I was there, a lovely glass of Armchair Critic Shiraz).
There are serious desserts to round out the meal - big enough to do for two unless you keep a spare stomach in your knapsack. Topped with a small portion of clotted cream, the apple and rhubarb crumble - heavy on the rhubarb - is finished with almond slices and an icing sugar dust, while the bitter chocolate mousse sits in two great, sticky scoops beneath a pile of honeycomb, which is gluey enough to seal your teeth together - approach with cautious delight.
The Vine Hotel is located at 59 Wellington St, Collingwood. Counter meals are served from 11:30am and the bistro is open from 11:30am - 3:00pm Monday to Friday and 6:00pm - 9:00pm Thursday and Friday.