Review: The Gem Bar & Dining (Melbourne, VIC)

289 Wellington Street
Collingwood VIC 3066
+61 3 9419 5170

As Melbourne’s evenings get cooler, my collection of red wine and whisky bottles expand as does my appetite for hearty meaty dishes (and, let’s face it, my waistline). Our fair southern city is full of gastropubs serving all manners of pub classics with modern twists and The Gem Bar & Dining in Collingwood happens to be one of them. This place gets understandably packed on Friday nights so if you want your fix of pub classics with a touch of American soul, then you’re better off making a booking before rocking up.

So I had dinner with my friend Gian late on a Friday night. Gian had waxed lyrical about The Gem’s American BBQ menu but he decided to give this place another shot as he wanted to see what the pub fare was like.

Buttermilk fried chicken soft shell taco with sweetcorn ceviche and chipotle mayo ($7); kafalograviera saganaki ($14)
Buttermilk fried chicken soft shell taco with sweetcorn ceviche and chipotle mayo ($7); kafalograviera saganaki ($14)

We both had a buttermilk fried chicken taco to start. I may be a bit over the whole Mexican craze but what normal person can resist the lure of crispy buttermilk fried chicken because BUTTERMILK? The tacos were decently sized and the chicken was beautifully crunchy though if I was to be picky, I wasn’t sure I liked the way they used the term ‘sweetcorn ceviche’ on the menu because isn’t ceviche supposed to equal seafood?

The dish you see in the background is a serving of saganaki. At $14 a pop, I thought it was a bit rich for what was essentially grilled cheese. It wasn’t even drizzled in that lovely sticky fig sauce as per Hellenic Republic or anything to make it worth the coin; it was a piece of rock hard cheese sprinkled with zaatar and served with lemon and Turkish bread. Nice, but not for $14.

Maltese lamb pie ($22)
Maltese lamb pie ($22)

Gian ordered the Maltese lamb pie, which was essentially slow-cooked lamb neck in a rich tomato stew, topped with puff pastry and served with French braised peas, mash and jus. It was a lovely dish that warmed both heart and stomach, though we both struggled to figure out what was so ‘Maltese’ about it. (we later found out from the general manager that the spices and olives made it more Maltese Falcon than Italian Stallion. Riiiiight)

Pot au feu ($28)
Pot au feu ($28)

I ordered the pot au feu, purely because I’ve heard that the dudes who created Vietnamese beef noodle soup, pho, was inspired by the French pot au feu. My dish was a rich medley of ox cheek, pork hock, savoy cabbage, chat potatoes and smoked bone marrow; it tasted rustic and amazing but you know what? After only 10 or so spoonfuls, I conceded defeat. It was THAT rich. Fail, Libby, fail.

Gem’s a nice bar to warm up to a nice dinner to after work, preferably not on a Friday if you want to avoid crowds. I’m defs keen to go back to try their all American menu at some point.

I eat too much.


  1. Theresa W.
    April 23, 2015

    Ooooh, an American-style menu is after my own heart. (although the pot au feu sounds good for when I’m really hungry.)

  2. bars in kew
    May 26, 2015

    Thanks for those reviews. Seems you had a great time at The Gem. I must say the bars in Kew are great place to chill out with friends and enjoy a few drinks. From public, wine bars to lounges, anyone can find a suitable venue quite easily.


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