Sometimes, a solid pub meal is exactly what you need. And when it comes to Collingwood institutions, Grace Darling Hotel [114 Smith Street] is right up there. It is, after all, Melbourne’s second oldest pub. Don’t be fooled though — its walls have many stories to tell, the pub grub here is far from outdated. Take the Grace parma for instance — torched raclette make a pub classic a little bit special. Get a taste for Melbourne’s music scene by heading in for a gig. Local bands and performers take to the band room stage almost every night of the week. Or simply pull up a pew and enjoy a pint while taking in this character-filled pub.
When brunch time calls, there are plenty of Collingwood cafes competing for top honours but a consistent favourite is Smith Street Alimentari [304 Smith Street]. Enjoy dishes like chilli scrambled eggs with enoki mushrooms or French toast with wood-roasted peaches, alongside coffee that’s sure to have your day off on the right foot. Exposed-brick walls, drop lights and native florals make this place one of those rare gems that’s equally cosy and sleek. Missed the brunch rush? You can get a meal here later in the day too: salads, panini and wraps are served for lunch, while wood-fired pizza and pasta plates are on the dinner menu.
Even if you’re not on the hunt for a vintage find, there’s plenty of cool and kooky things to check out at Vintage Garage [318 Smith Street]. Sift through its racks of electric fashion — it’s a popular place to pick up music festival get-ups — and browse its shelves chock-full of quirky knick-knacks to see if you can find your next treasured item. Old candy machines, toys of yesteryear and funky homewares are all waiting for their new home.
The tiled walls and colourful seating coupled with Mexican wall art and signage at Hotel Jesus [174 Smith Street] will have you feeling like you’re in a different time and country. Tuck into tasty Mexican meals, whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner. In the morning you can enjoy the egg taco plate — two tacos with fried eggs, avocado, salsa verde, cotija cheese, black beans, guajillo, queso fresco and pickled vegetables. Your midday meal here could be a blackened chicken quesadilla with a side of chilli fries. If you’re here when dinner rolls around, go for one of the DIY tacos — the pork belly version is a crowd favourite.
Entering Happy Valley Shop [294 Smith Street], you can’t help but feel, well, happy. It simultaneously holds the charm of a local book store and the aesthetic of a sleek interiors showroom. And everything is so beautiful you’ll struggle to leave empty-handed. Its shelves are stacked with artsy books, brand-new vinyls, artisinal homewares and oh-so-cute accessories. If you're looking for a new piece of jewellery for yourself or a loved one, you can’t go past the offerings of designer Emily Green. Her colourful polymer clay earrings will put a smile on your dial, just like the store they’re sold in.
Okay, okay, this one is a little bit of a cheat as it’s technically just beyond the Collingwood boundary — but hear us out. Bad Frankie [141 Greeves Street, Fitzroy] specialises in two things: drinks and jaffles. And, boy, is it a good combo. Select from creative concoctions like the Snuggle Pot and Cuddle Pie — a mix of macadamia, pineapple, rum and anise flavours — or the Melbourne Fruit Cup featuring Four Pillars Gin, Melbourne Moonshine and Maidenii vermouth. If cocktails aren’t your style, there’s more than 100 Australian-made spirits to choose from. Pair your drink with a savoury jaffle like The Shroom of garlic, red wine and thyme mushrooms, spinach, Australian fetta and mozzarella on wholemeal bread. If it’s a sweet treat your craving, you can’t go wrong with the Lamington: chocolate-soaked sponge cake filled with jam, rolled in coconut and served with cream.