One of Collingwood’s landmark 19th-century corner pubs, the Robert “Robbie” Burns Hotel, has made some major changes after 32 years serving Spanish fare.

Gerry Nass (former manager at Middle Park Hotel and Half Moon Hotel) took over the old pub in 2018 and has been bringing the building – which was built in 1861 – up to speed in the months since. It relaunched in June with a more contemporary and open-plan design, and a new Italian menu designed by executive chef Danny Russo (Sydney’s Beresford Hotel) and executed by head chef David Maclean (Stokehouse, Royal Saxon).

The tartan carpet remains (now it extends up the bistro’s walls), and a new coat of paint in muted greys and whites helps the inside of the old red-brick pub feel less gloomy and more light and bright. A set of turntables plants you firmly in the 21st century. There’s a beer garden out the back, and a cocktail bar is in the works for the upstairs function room.

The bistro menu flits between classic Australian pub fare and hearty Italian. You’ll get your parma, here topped with prosciutto and mozzarella. And the cotoletta is a parmesan-crumbed, flattened veal schnitzel drizzled with lemon juice. There’s pappardelle with lamb ragu, and linguini, which comes with local prawns, octopus and calamari, and is topped with grated bottarga. There’s a classic cheeseburger, steak frites and fish’n’chips. And a duck and cavolo nero lasagne, which is only served on Tuesdays. If you're thinking smaller, there’s burrata with pickled persimmon, and a fish-finger sandwich on white bread, which marries nostalgia with gastropub-appropriate styling.

All the kids meals are $10. Choose from mac’n’cheese balls, linguine with Napoli and parmesan, a pint-sized cheeseburger, or a mini schnitzel.

In the bar there are 14 taps pouring craft brews from Melbourne and Sydney. Alongside brews from Sample and Young Henrys are more standard beers from Coopers and Melbourne Bitter.

“A tap list should be a combination of craft and classic Australian,” says Nass. “I don’t think it should just be craft.”

Tinnies are mostly local, too, and there are more than 30 in the fridge, including Stomping Ground and CoConspirators. Wines are a mix of local and Italian – all food-friendly styles such as a buttery pinot gris from Pacha Mama in central Victoria, and an easy-drinking San Marzano Il Pumo sangiovese from Puglia in southern Italy.

There are sodas by Sydney’s PS40, which is known for inventive flavours such as wattleseed cola and smoked lemonade, but for something a little stiffer, try the Little Italy. It’s a cocktail made with Campari, sweet vermouth and pompelmo (a grapefruit soda).

During footy season, the Robbie Burns screens games in the front bar (if Collingwood or the Wallabies win, bartenders hand out free beer for 30 minutes). And on weekend nights DJs play – there’s a different theme each night. Thursday is soul, with PBS’s Miss Goldie taking the reins with a variety of vinyl. Friday and Saturday it’s a mix of funk, soul and some darker rock vibes.

Robert Burns Hotel
376 Smith Street, Collingwood
(03) 9417 2233

Mon to Sat 12pm–12am
Sun 12pm–11pm

This article first appeared on Broadsheet on September 19, 2019. Menu items may have changed since publication.