The Grace Darling
Ah, The Grace. Collingwoods finest, loyal local to many, home of great gigs, and apparently, excellent food. Opened in (according to the website), 1854, and refurbished in 2009, it is a quaint and quite beautiful stone and brick building that rarely disappoints. With a front bar, two small dining areas, the upstairs band room, and the ‘cellar’ (another band room downstairs, off the restaurant), it’s not your typical pub fare. They specialize in boutique wines, ultimately focused on local growers, and a generous selection of local and international beers. While the restaurant is not your typical pub fare, with a smaller menu than most, incorporating mostly organic ingredients, it has more of a ‘fine dining’ feel, while maintaining a humble atmosphere.
Upon arrival at The Grace, we were seated straight away, down a short flight of stairs, under a skylight and trellises (very picturesque). The little candle-lit tables were slowly starting to fill, but that did not stop our waiter, Andrew, from giving us a detailed run down of the wine list, making sure we made the right selection to go with our meal. Knowledgeable waiters are always a plus, and he also informed us that the menu had just changed that day, with new summer salads and starters on the list, so he didn’t try to pretend to know about all the new selections, which was very much appreciated! After helping us to select the Allies ’09 Sav Blanc (which was quite enjoyable, and perfect for the warm summer evening) he gave us a run down of the specials and favorites and then left us to our own devices.
The menu was quite small, with your usual chicken parma and steak, but with additions like a stacked peach salad, a tossed watermelon salad, and while it didn’t lean towards a particular cuisine, there were decidedly Arabic and Mediterranean influences. I repeat, very much not your typical pub fare! We settled on one of the specials, a penne with sausage and ragout, and slow roasted aubergine, with cucumber yogurt.
We were served warm flat bread with a tangy, and very delicious olive oil and zaa’tar dipping oil, which was light and flavorful, which was an indicator of what to expect. By now, the lights were dimmed and the stone building had started to cool down, and it made me wonder why we had never eaten here before (probably because mains start at around $22, which is a little bit pricier than the average pub).
After a short wait, our mains came out. Starting with the aubergine, which was, exactly as described, slow roasted to perfection, with a light coating of olive oil and seasoned well. The side of cucumber yogurt, and mint salad was a good addition, which cooled down the intensity of the aubergine, making it a suitable summer meal.
We also ordered one the specials of the day, penne with sausage ragout. This was pretty, pretty good. The tomato sauce had a great kick, the pasta was the right texture, the sausage was spicy. It was quite filling and definitely something to come back for, and at just $16, very much worth your pennies.
We ended the meal with a refreshing coffee granita, which came in small coffee cop, topped with whipped cream. The intense coffee flavor completely annihilated the spice and kick of our mains. Probably one of the best things about their menu, was their dessert list, with a variety of granitas, and a Christmas pudding, which is definitely something you don’t see often.
All in all, it was a very positive experience. While it is much more expensive, (menu ranges from $12 to $65) making it more of a special occasion destination, the atmosphere and service speaks for itself.