Hotel Spencer, 475 Spencer Street, West Melbourne. Phone: 9329 9116
Once upon a time, long ago, pre-Bennie, pre-blog, I dined at Hotel Spencer when a record company picked up the bill.
At the time, IIRC, it had forged something of a reputation for hearty pub food, including offal and the like.
So Bennie and I are happy to accept an invitation to dine there and see how it’s going these days (full disclosure below).
The answer is: Very well.
The new bosses, Wes and Hennie, have been in the house for about two years.
There’s quite a lot of residential tucked away down here either side of Spencer Street, and Wes tells me with enthusiasm about their regulars and locals and the good things that are happening in the neighbourhood.
It’s a gorgeous place, particularly the dining room.
To my spectacularly untutored eye, there is something of the art deco about it, but Wes tells me the place was built in 1850.
The upper floors are taken up by backpacker accommodations.
The menu is very keenly priced, with just one dish clocking in at above $30 and quite a few mains below $20. It has many typical pub dishes but also a few things more unusual.
The vegetarian antipasto platter ($18) makes a fine and light start for us.
The arancini are chewy in the middle, crusty on the outside and anointed with a periperi sauce that leaves my lips all a-tingle.
Bennie loves them.
Bennie doesn’t like zucchini.
Nevertheless, I persuade him to try the chargrilled zuch slices, so good are they!
Yep, he digs them.
The eggplant doesn’t quite pack the same flavour punch.
The hose-made chutney, olives, roasted red capsicum and mozzarella with pesto are all fine.
One I spotted bobotie ($22) on the menu, I was always going to try it.
I’ve done some beforehand homework on what is sometimes referred to as “South Africa’s national dish”, so am a little perplexed by what I am served.
It’s drier than I am expecting and has lentils.
Turns out, this is the Hotel Spencer gluten-free interpretation, hence the lentils instead of the traditional milk-soaked bread mixing with the beef, and I’m told, curry powder, turmeric, cinnamon, coriander, salt, pepper and chutney, with more of the latter on the side.
It all is tucked under an eggy custard topping that makes it a little like moussaka.
Likewise in terms of gluten-free, “cauliflower rice” replaces regular rice – it tastes good!
I enjoy my bobotie, and I am intrigued by it.
Would I order it again?
Hmmm, not sure!
I am so busy contemplating my main, and eating it, that I plain forget to quiz Bennie about his chicken burger ($16), though the mouthful I sneak tastes good to me.
But as we later walk back to our car, and are discussing our Hotel Spencer experience, he opines without prompting: “I liked my chicken burger – it was really good!”
For dessert, we go with the “Treat Yourself” platter ($19), which has samples of all on the menu.
There’s a crunchy bread pudding, a croissant pudding that has Bennie humming with joy, a milk tart and house-made chocolate ice cream.
It’s all very good and quite the bargain.
We’ve loved our visit to Hotel Spencer and envisage a soon-come return to check out the very attractively priced specials.
Added bonus for those coming from the western suburbs: For a mid-week dinner, there’s stacks of parking.
Check out the Hotel Spencer website, including menu, here.
(Consider The Sauce dined at Hotel Spencer as guests of management. No money changed hands. We ordered whatever we wanted. Hotel Spencer management did not seek any editorial input into this story.)