This recently opened South East Asian restaurant by convivial host Nathan Peck is oh-so-cool and sophisticated. It has a jungle theme with a large, colorful mural on one wall, lots of hanging, big leafed plants, exposed brickwork, concrete flooring, a pitched, rough hewn wooden beamed roof, and an open kitchen with a bar as well as table dining. Chef Ken McManamey has a great pedigree and does not disappoint in his new role. Dishes are designed for sharing and are fresh, innovative and dynamic. If you like your spice, try Som Tum, a green papaya and snake bean salad. Signature dish Beef Cheek is a must try despite being the most expensive shared plate, and you simply cannot go home without sampling their amazing coconut sorbet dessert with choc kaffir lime ice magic.
This fine dining French-inspired restaurant is an absolute delight. Its dark walls, timber-framed mirrors, large tables and plush carpets lend an elegant and stylish yet warm ambiance to the room. Owner and chef Peter Roddy, who has worked with the likes of the Roux brothers, brings his own fresh contemporary style to classic dishes such as entrées of beef tartar and duck consommé, and mains of duck breast and confit and rack of lamb. Stand-out dishes are their famous rabbit pie and melt-in-the-mouth chocolate marquise with blood orange macaron. Portions are generous and comforting, various set menus are available and dishes change frequently. If you are looking for that special somewhere for a celebration or family get together, (they have a private dining room upstairs) look no further than Noir.
The Grand Richmond
A reliable Richmond institution, this elegant Victorian building is a welcoming haven in a rather unprepossessing street. It has two equally excellent but different dining areas; the Lounge Bar with its cozy booths serves bistro food and has a pleasant beer garden, and the beautifully decorated, comfortable Dining Room is a perfect place for sampling their exquisitely presented, classic Italian fare. Retaining their chef’s hat for several years running, the two young classically-trained chefs cook with confidence and panache, with amazing attention to detail when it comes to the presentation of their dishes. Yellowfin tuna with pistachio and hazelnut crust, scallops and prawn tortelli starters, and succulent twice cooked duck with semolina gnocchi main are not to be missed. The superb service has to be admired at The Grand, and the well curated wine and beer list will delight. With function rooms available for large celebrations and “Degustation Tuesdays” themed nights, a meal at The Grand is a memorable experience not to be missed.
Owner and chef Ryan Flaherty has embarked on his first solo venture after leaving Estelle in Northcote. Having learnt his craft at boundary-pushing restaurants El Bulli and The Fat Duck, he has certainly made his mark with Mister Jennings, named after his favorite children’s author. The minimalist light and airy bijou interior, with its pleasing smoky blue and black bar, blonde wooden tables, private dining mezzanine, and well chosen funky background music, has brought some life and sophistication to this end of Bridge Road. The service and well curated wine list are overseen by an excellent front of house and the playful menu really hits the spot. There are plenty of smaller sharing plates for those who want a drink and a bite, as well as more filling fare for those with a larger appetite, balancing the more intricate dishes with the more straightforward. The foodies among you will want to go for the tasting menu and also try his signature Frozen Kangaroo loin, which is thinly sliced, served frozen with beautiful accompaniments that defrost in the mouth; a clever play between temperature and texture, it is a taste sensation. The less adventurous will not go wrong with his superbly cooked steak and chips. Mister Jennings is cutting edge, loaded with passion, energy and a lot of fun. It is in a class of its own.
Restaurants come and go, but there is always the familiar continuity of an establishment that has been open for over half a century, and refreshingly refuses to change because it doesn’t really need to. One such establishment is Vlado’s Steakhouse and Grill. Despite the passing of founder Vlado Gregurek in 2012, this famous local steakhouse is thriving because its reputation is built purely on the fabulous quality of its prime cuts of meat. There is no fancy menu, and the charming old-fashioned decor with its photo portraits of celebrity diners remains as it always was – even the same loyal staff have been here for years. As a result the ambiance is cozy, relaxed and timeless. Rolling out before you is a standard coleslaw salad, followed by a plate of assorted cooked meats, then you choose from the sample prime cuts for your main which are cooked to order on a special charcoal grill, followed by a choice of two simple desserts. No frills, no fuss, just exquisitely cooked, juicy, tender steak. What you see is what you get at Vlado’s – no false preconceptions; simply a good old fashioned meat feast.
Bahari The Hellenic Palate
The popularity of this brand new Greek dining experience is deservedly earned by Philip Vakos of Masterchef fame. Taking classic Greek dishes and imbuing them with a contemporary twist and artistry is what they do well here. The interior has the cool factor with quirky wooden hand-shaped chairs, but at the same time has a warm, intimate Greek country feel, with a brick floor and unadorned walls and a small outdoor area. The simple decor extends to the approach to the food. There are no complicated menus; just an ever changing specials board of delicious, beautifully cooked and presented food. Try tender, melt in the mouth char-grilled octopus, stuffed zucchini flowers, slow cooked goat, and their fun take on traditional desserts such as baklava. There is an infectious, buzzy energy about this place. The service is friendly, efficient and flexible, (they can tailor food to your requirements ) and most importantly, it is really great value for money. So if you are curious to experience some fun at the Bahari, (spice in Greek) waste no time, book a table and get down here right away.
Richmond Oyster Bar
Seafood suppliers to the best Melbourne restaurants since 1959, fishmonger to the locals, and great casual seafood and fish restaurant and takeaway since 2006, versatility is the name of the game at Richmond Oysters. Located near Richmond station, this welcoming and exciting venue is the ideal spot for a freshly prepared, satisfying meal, and you can choose from an array of the freshest fish from the ice cabinet on your way in. The choice and preparation of their signature oysters is amazing – ocean or freshwater from all over Southern Australia, all shucked live on the premises. What could be better than a big share oyster platter enjoyed with friends in the sunshine, (with a glass of crisp white wine of course) served with lemon wedges, and homemade sour cream and sweet chili sauces. Other ‘sharers’ include sashimi, scallops, soft shell crab, octopus, saganaki and mussel pot. The rest of the menu is extensive, portions are generous, so you certainly won’t go hungry. There is no fancy food artistry here at Richmond Oyster Bar, but the seafood itself is literally art on a plate.
Located in the heritage Union building, this European-style restaurant has brought class and style to Swan Street. Professional chef Nicky Riemer and front of house Adam Cash have realized their goal, renovating this large architecturally interesting space in a pleasing minimalist style, but have created a cozy ambiance with dark wood, low lighting, and a palate of warm colors. In addition to the downstairs bar and larger dining area, there is a magnificent roof terrace upstairs at the rear of the building, with skyline views and a more casual menu. The hearty, comforting traditional European dishes downstairs have a modern Aussie twist to them, using simple good quality ingredients. The entrée of soft white taleggio polenta with baked field mushrooms is mouthwatering, as is the main of Abbacchio of baby goat and sugo. There is a beautiful selection of appetizers, interesting side salads and delicious desserts, and they even churn their own ice cream. A fabulous list of old and new world wines and beers will ensure that an evening out at Union will be an experience to remember.
Church Street Enoteca
This cavernous dining venue with enormous presence used to be an old metal works and has been artistically renovated with a nod to the Art Deco style, with reclaimed floorboards, vintage posters on the walls, and long pendulous lights hanging from high ceilings. It has a warm and comfortable feel with well spaced tables. The menu is predominantly Italian in style, but with a modern Australian touch, such as BYO Mondays, two course lunch menus with a glass of wine for the business crowd, a neat little bar menu for those out for a drink and a light bite in an evening, plus a very forward-thinking range of special dietary menus. The a la carte menu has been very well thought out and majors on fine local produce. Whilst not extensive, there is something for everyone including ‘Bambinos” and their plain palate. Try the entrée of venison carpaccio with beetroot and pickled blueberries. Delicious mains of Flinders Island lamb shoulder, Sevens Creek Wagyu rump, or John Dory with mussel broth will certainly hit the spot. Their desserts, such as goat’s yogurt panna cotta are light and appetizing, and their small heritage cheese selection is just the thing to finish off. A beautiful wine list with a strong Italian feel will get you in the mood for dinner at aptly named Enoteca – Italian for wine bar.
If you are looking for authenticity and true class for your Japanese ‘Sushi’ experience, there is probably nowhere better outside Tokyo than Minamishima! Named for top sushi chef Koichi Minamishima, previously at Kenzan, this stunning sushi restaurant opened recently in a fairly nondescript road just off Bridge Street. Step through the black glass entrance into the sleek black and light wood interior and you are transported into a magical world. The hushed ambiance, low-lighting, polite wait staff and low background music is an incredible soothing experience; a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of many Melbourne restaurants. Sit at the beautiful long wooden sushi bar and prepare to be amazed by the ‘Omakase’ (chef’s choice) which will appear before you, course after wonderful course. Much of the seasonal seafood is imported fresh from Tokyo, and includes Torigai, (Japanese shellfish) Engawa (charred Japanese flounder) and Otoro (fat tuna belly). Watch the theater as Minamishima and his co chef work their magic deftly in unison. Alternatively, dine at one of the quiet tables and be looked after by the seamlessly professional front of house Randolph Cheuong. His wine knowledge is unsurpassed and he will pair sake with your endless succession of beautiful courses. The devotion to an age old Japanese art with true style and refinement has finally found itself right in the heart of Melbourne.