While the rest of Sydney Road may be going through a demographic shift to more of a young, flesh-baring, neon-wearing clientele, The Spotted Mallard, perched safely above street level on the first floor of Metropolis, provides some welcome relief. This is Brunswick of old: dilapidated decor, good pub food and live music all set in an expansive old ballroom.
The food is the real surprise. Upon entering The Spotted Mallard, which has been open since 2012, you might expect to see a standard parma-lead pub menu, where everything comes slapped on a plate. But, luckily for us, that is not the case. The food — from a largely ex-Mamasita crew — is a gourmet contradiction to the decor, and anything but standard pub fare. A 12-hour roasted lamb ($24), baked quinoa loaf with beetroot and feta salad ($19) or pork rib eye with pinto bean and wilted apple slaw ($24) are really just unnecessary distractions from the main event: the burgers. Featured in many top 5/top 10/best in Melbourne lists, the options (all $19) include a wagyu beef and bacon with gruyere cheese, tea smoked fish with horseradish mayo, chickpea and sweet potato with harissa yoghurt and pico de gallo or merguez (a spicy North African sausage). All are served on Bakery Lievito brioche and with a side of some of the chunkiest hand-cut chips you'll find in Melbourne (just where do they find potatoes that large?).
If you read the menu before getting there, the grunge-pub nature of the space would shock you, but that's exactly the charm of the 'rare and reclusive oft neglected lesser Spotted Mallard'. Come for great food, craft beer and well curated live music that can either be enjoyed as background to dinner conversation, or as the main event.
And did I mention the burgers are great?