Most of Melbourne is revelling in the relaxation of lockdown rules and eagerly returning to pubs, cafes and restaurants. Our mate Jess swiftly organised us a table for four at the Spencer Hotel, which serves one of his favourite vegan burgers. In light of current spacing rules, we had the entire front bar to ourselves (with other tables in use in the dining room and out on the footpath) and full table service.
The menu covers familiar ground: for the omnivores there's steak and chips, fish and chips, a parma, bangers and mash, pulled pork and Southern chicken burgers, and hot wings. The vegetarian burger looks like a rich one with mushrooms, potato and four kinds of cheese. For vegans, there's a hearty-looking bistro salad and one-to-two burgers. I'm hedging because the beef-style Smokehouse burger wasn't available and I'm not sure if they're bringing it back. Most importantly, Jess' favourite Faux' Boy ($20) was still on offer and it was all we wanted.
Cute as the pun may be this seems a very loose tribute to the Louisiana po' boy, which is commonly filled with seafood, but can be made with other meats. It features two filling pieces of battered mock-chicken, slaw, and plenty of sauce. The menu lists three condiments - cheezy bacon sauce, chipotle aioli, and jalapeno salsa - but they mostly just melded into a pleasant and slightly drippy mix. Vegans usually miss out on the 'brioche bun' nonsense that's saturated Melbourne, but the fluffy potato bun here is a worthy analogue and it contrasts well with the chicken. It steers this burger away from being a gluten-brick, which I've sometimes struggled with in other pubs.
Hotel Spencer's chips are great, there are sauces aplenty at the table, and we felt well looked after in these times of distanced-dining. While other bloggers mention it as a convenient stop-off before a show at Festival Hall, we'll have to find another excuse to revisit given that gigs are still a ways off and FH has been bought by Hillsong.
Hotel Spencer has clocked up a few reviews, all positive, and most around 5 years old, see Gastrology, Eat & Be Merry, live life love cake, Consider the Sauce, Parma Daze and Gastronomical Ramblings.
475 Spencer St, West Melbourne
Accessibility: Oof, I am out of practice with this! There was a step up on entry, and medium-spaced furniture inside. We received full table service, but this might shift to ordering and/or payment at a high bar as the pandemic eases. The toilets were gendered.