Robert Burns Hotel:

376 Smith Street, Collingwood VIC (03) 9417 2233 or www.robertburnshotel.com.au

Spanish restaurant pioneer, Urbano Gutierrez, took over the Robert Burns Hotel in the late ’70s. The Robby, as it’s affectionately known, is in deepest, darkest Collingwood and in those days it wasn’t the funky melting pot it is today. Wisely, Urbano didn’t start pushing his stuffed calamari across the bar until 1982. Since then the Scottish pub with the Spanish heart has been serving authentic Iberian chow, and in more recent times Head Chef Ivan Saiz has taken over the reins. The Robby joined the Colonial Leisure Group portfolio when CLG took over the Cornerstone group of pubs. The pub had slowly been run down to the point where it was, frankly, an embarrassment. Now, after a nine-month renovation the Robby returns. Fans will be relieved to learn that it’s more of the same — only better. The low headroom, folksy interior has been retained with its stucco and herringbone floors, but a courtyard has been added along with a new kitchen. This isn’t a band-aid measure, the Robby has been totally gutted and refurbished… only, with the aim of not looking like it. As Grady Patching, CLG’s Victorian Manager, puts it: “People in this area don’t want bright, brand new, shiny venues. You can’t take what we did at the Half Moon in Brighton and put it into the Collingwood area.” What CLG could do was lay on a Spanish-only wine list, put Estrella Damm beer on tap, and allow Ivan to express himself with some of the city’s most authentic tapas and traditional Spanish cuisine going. And the locals love it.


Digital Living continues its CLG association, installing a modern sound system into the Robby. Digital Living’s Matt Price describes the setup as ‘unobtrusively versatile’. The system can effortlessly lift in prime pub times, while maintains a conversational balance in the restaurant area, all without dotting dozens of speakers around the venue. An Allen & Heath IDR8 provides the zoning and processing smarts, and helps to easily accommodate live music and DJs via preset configurations. Low profile QSC AD-S52 surfacemount speakers are supplemented by concealed QSC subwoofers, resulting in a full sound without hotspots — a fair effort given the low ceilings. An Allen & Heath multi-room wall controller allows for the oversight of the eight zones independently. GREAT SCOTS The Robbie is an oddity. As odd as a bullfight in Glasgow, or a tartan shawl. Its decor and atmosphere is an anachronism — hard to place and harder to describe. But to CLG’s credit, it has recognised that and embraced it. The locals want the Robby to stay as the Robby and, thank goodness, that’s exactly what they’ve got.

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