Unlike in the UK, a hotel in Australia is likely to be somewhere to eat and drink than somewhere to sleep, unless of course you find yourself having too many glasses of wine! Located on Spencer Street just a short walk from Southern Cross Station and Melbourne’s Festival Hall, Hotel Spencer Bar and Dining Room has become one of my favourite places to pop in and say hello.
One of the reasons being is that the South African owners, Hennie and Wes, are so welcoming as are the rest of the crew. The Hotel Spencer is essentially split into two parts; a bar and the dining room, which has an old-world charm where you can enjoy a decent sit down meal beside the cosy fireplace.
I tend to grab a seat in the bar area which is just as nice, just a little less formal and great for when dining alone. The menu offers a good choice of pub grub from classic dishes like slow-roasted cider pork belly with apple and coleslaw to the more unusual, like South African Bobotie with house chutney and cauliflower rice.
I’m not much of a parma kinda gal but I have to say that the man-sized chicken parma at the Hotel Spencer is the best Aussie parma I’ve had to date (it even went down well with blogger ParmaDaze). The chicken is proper chicken, not the processed kind and there’s a good amount of sauce and cheese on top. The portion size is BIG, just like with most parma’s but alas, I can finish it, no worries. The twice-cooked chips and fresh seasonal salad that accompany it, is a great combination of naughty and nice. The chips disappear first of course!
When I’m feeling slightly more healthy the grilled swordfish with fresh pesto and an olive and wild rocket salad is my go to dish. It’s fresh, flavoursome and not to heavy leaving me room for dessert. I’m very indecisive as it is but when it comes to dessert, my mind does nothing but battle over which one to have.
Therefore, you can imagine my excitement when I come across a menu with a tasting platter allowing me to try a selection of desserts. Ok, Hotel Spencer’s dessert platter is more expensive that just having one dessert ($19 v $14) and probably double the calories but it prevents FOMO, food envy and quite frankly, you do only live once YOLO 😉 .
Once when I was there, Hennie was so excited about his homemade caramel and croissant pudding soaked in bourbon, that he brought one out for me to try. Now the presentation wasn’t great (whipped cream *cringe*) and I told him that, but it tasted pretty darn good, no wonder it’s his best seller.
There’s a few things on the presentation side which could be improved but they’re getting there and after all, unless I was paying premium prices at one of Melbourne’s top establishments I really don’t expect a fancy swish of purée or flowers on my plate. In fact, this is what I like about the Hotel Spencer; I can get a good feed from just $12 (specials change daily) or if I fancy dining “out out” I can enjoy a three course meal without breaking the bank.
The Happy Hour is pretty good too, with wines from just $4, pints of craft beer $6 and cocktails from $10. Brent, who you may have heard about in previous posts, is the ‘beer guy’ at the Hotel Spencer. This means I’ve pretty much sampled most of what they have on tap with a paddle of beer, just $8 during Happy Hour.
There’s a good selection of craft beers from Australian Brewery, who have only just arrived in Melbourne from home state NSW, meaning the Hotel Spencer are one of the only bars in Melbourne to have them on tap. They also have a Sour Apple Mojito on tap which is extremely refreshing and goes down a little too easily.
It’s always nice when I find somewhere I enjoy returning to, whether it’s to eat, work or drink, and the Hotel Spencer is one of them. My favourite thing about the Hotel Spencer is that they care. They will help make a customers birthday extra special, greet locals by name as they walk through the door and go to the effort of reading and acting on every review they receive.
It reminds me of some English country pubs back home, where after a few visits, you instantly feel part of the family. Miles away from my own, the Hotel Spencer family are a pretty good one to have.
Loving life, loving Hotel Spencer,