MELBOURNE | Nestled in a quiet spot on Wellington Street, The Gem is one of Collingwood’s more established pubs. The venue, like a number of other pubs in the inner north, reinvented itself a few years ago and started to smoke meat ‘low and slow’. Given our obsession with American barbecue we decided it was long past time that we sampled the food at The Gem and made a trip there one Sunday afternoon.
The outside of the venue has clearly been refreshed and maintained over time but retains the classic characteristics of the pubs in the area. The inside also feels clean and fresh but retains its old school charm – we really like the trend of older pubs carrying out interior works in a way that makes it feel like they were always as they are now, The Rainbow Hotel is another of our favourite pubs that is a good example of this.
The drinks list is fairly basic but functional covering wine, basic spirits and a short beer list that still manages a few local craft brews as well as some bottles from one of the larger American craft breweries, Sierra Nevada, and cans of the All Day IPA by Founders. We were easily able to find something that met our minimum standard for drinkability and again applaud the trend of older pubs keeping with the times and keeping at least a couple of solid craft beers on their drinks list. The ubiqitous and oft-maligned Pabst Blue Ribbon (‘PBR’) is also available in a pint can for those who want a different lager experience or for a craft beer veteran looking for a cheap laugh.
The food menu is quite interesting for an old pub, combining both the full range of classics such as the beef burger and chicken parma and the aforementioned slow-cooked barbecue to ensure that those who have decided to ride the American BBQ wave are not left wanting. There is also a rotating specials menu with around eight choices which, at least on the day that we visited, had a decidedly Mexican/Spanish influence. The barbecue offering included the trinity of pulled pork, beef brisket and ribs of the pork and beef variety (although disappointingly no slow cooked beef rib) as well as two types of sausages and roast chicken. The sides were also as expected, covering the range from cornbread to coleslaw and mac & cheese. Barbecued meat can be ordered either separately or as a tasting plate which includes five meats and five sides. On Sundays there is also a roast available that rotates on a weekly basis.
Sunday Roast ($25.00)
On the day that we visited the roast of the week was duck served with brussells sprouts, Yorkshire pudding and gravy. This was done exactly the way a Sunday roast should be, the duck was very tasty and had great crispy skin, the Yorkshire pudding was the right mix between dense and fluffy and absorbed the gravy nicely and the sprouts were crunchy and had melded well with the flavour of the gravy. This was one of the best Sunday roasts that we have had for quite some time.
Beef Brisket ($18.00) and Mac & Cheese ($4.00)
We couldn’t visit a place that advertises meat ‘low and slow’ so on the barbecue side we decided to try the beef brisket with a side of mac & cheese. This may have been a case of being spoiled by the emergence of ‘pro cuers’ in Melbourne over the last couple of years but we found that the brisket feel short of our expectations. Whilst the flavours were good, the meat was not as tender and ‘fall apart’ as we are used to from the better briskets such as those available from Ironbark BBQ and Bluebonnet BBQ, and was also on the dry side. The mac & cheese was perfectly serviceable without being amazing, although for only $4.00 for a decent serving size we couldn’t complain.
Chipotle Glazed BBQ Beef Rib ($26.00)
We also tried one of the specials on the menu, which was a Chipotle glazed BBQ beef rib, served with Mexicali rice and sweet potato crisps. Like the brisket the meat was not as tender as we are used to, but in this style the rib is not cooked as long as in the American style and in any case this was made up for by the flavour and chipotle glaze which were both excellent and combined well to create a great dish overall. We found that by the time we had finished the meat that the rice and crisps were somewhat superfluous and would suggest that perhaps some vegetables might be a better accompaniment.
We very much enjoyed our Sunday afternoon feast of meat – we recommend that anyone who has a hankering for a Sunday roast or some innovative special dishes head over and check out The Gem, but if you’re used to Melbourne’s barbecue elite then we would recommend going elsewhere for a slow cooked meat fix.
287 Wellington Street
Telephone: (03) 9419 5170
Tue – Thu: 6:00pm to 9:30pm
Fri: 12:00pm to 3:00pm; 6:00pm to 10:00pm
Sat – Sun: 1:00pm to late
Tue -Thu: 3:00pm to 11:00pm
Fri: 12:00pm to 1:00am
Sat: 1:00pm to 1:00am
Sun: 1:00pm to 11:00pm