Robert Burns Hotel, 376 Smith St, Collingwood

‘Do you have anything that doesn’t have garlic in it? I don’t like garlic.’

‘Sorry – we’re a Spanish restaurant. Everything has garlic!’

I felt a little sorry for the guy, obviously a tourist. Who would have thought that walking into the Robert Burns Hotel meant a menu of paella and chorizo and not haggis with tatties and neeps?

Robert Burns Hotel, 376 Smith St, Collingwood

The front of the Robert Burns Hotel looks like many a workers’ club, albeit a bit spruced up with fresh flowers and no sticky carpet in sight. The back restaurant is a lighter, brighter space with comfortable banquette seating down one side and cane chairs and wooden tables in the remainder of the space. You can order from the menu and eat in the front area or the restaurant, though if you sit in the pub space you’ll be propping up food on your knees or perched on high stools.

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I love the juxtaposition of tartan carpet with the quickfire Spanish being bandied around in the kitchen.

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The Robbie Burns has become a bit of a home-away-from-home for Spanish expats in Melbourne so their menu spans cuisine from all regions of that country. The food is comfortably familiar Spanish, with special emphasis on meats from the grill (parilla). Luckily I don’t have an aversion to garlic!

At the moment on weekdays they offer  a lunch deal of $12 for a dish from their express lunch menu or $15 for an express lunch dish with a beer, wine, soft drink or coffee. The lunch dishes are light meals and offer great value.

As I was super hungry I decided to start with some jamon croquettes from the standard menu ($10.50 for 5). You can also order the same croquettes on the lunch menu where you’ll get 6 croquettes (3 of the jamon, 3 of the croquette of the day) for $12.

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The texture of the croquettes was about as close to perfect as I’ve experienced. Super crispy on the outside and so creamy on the inside. There were only a few tiny slivers of jamon within each croquette but I wasn’t too concerned. I just loved to crunchy/oozy combination of it all.

From the express lunch menu I had the mussels in an aromatic sofrito salsa. The mussels were very fresh and plump, and the amount of sauce left over at the end was almost equivalent to a small bowl of spicy tomato soup. The accompanying bread was perfect for mopping up the sauce and in fact I asked for more to wipe the bowl clean.

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Greedy for more I decided to go all out and have three courses, so I finished my lunch with the chocolate coulant ($11.50). They warn you that it takes 15 minutes to arrive because the molten chocolate pudding with vanilla bean ice cream  is made to order (they forgot to put the ice cream on the plate for the photo but brought it out separately later). It was everything that a chocolate moelleux should be but wasn’t amazing.

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The standard menu at the Robert Burns Hotel is available for dinner and they also hold special events – their current series explores cuisine for each of the Spanish regions. Go for an easygoing take on some classic Spanish cuisine with nary a bagpipe in sight.

Robert Burns Hotel, 379 Smith St, Collingwood +61 3 9417 2233

Monday – Tuesday 5pm – late

Wednesday  – Sunday 12pm – late