A fancy little wine and cocktail bar in South Yarra comes out fighting for Australian producers
Striding down Toorak Road you might just miss it – the renovated terrace home looks like the fancy patio of a cashed-up local. But those who do double back to find a seat in the tidy, tree-draped courtyard of Shadowboxer may find it very hard to leave.
This venue isn’t dancing in the dark in any sense. It’s headed up with confidence by three Southside stalwarts with a nose for what the locals like: Michael Thom (Lucky Coq, Naked For Satan), Luke Thompson (Lucky Coq, Borsch Vodka and Tears) and Nick Aitken (Borsch, Vodka & Tears). Interiors are by Collingwood studio Fiona Lynch, and reflects the luxe Toorak aesthetic with light and bright custom-made interiors that are softened with cottage-garden details.
By afternoon, you can soak up the sun and an aperitivo in the courtyard, with couple seating lined with planted rows of fresh rosemary. By night, you can move inside to the dining area and settle into bottles and mains, with larger table settings for the more serious diners.
Food and drinks have a distinctly Antipodean flavour. Their Local Spritz, for example, swaps out the standard Campari or Aperol for the Adelaide-made Applewood Red Okar, an Australian liquor with flavours of native riberry, lemon myrtle, cassia bark and licorice root. Paired with a sparkling blanc de blanc in place of the usual sweet prosecco, it’s a refreshing and savoury alternative to the classic.
When you’re ready for something heavier, their Antipodes Gin Martini is expensive at $24 but worth the outlay for the heady rush of Australian botanicals – Tasmanian Pepper Berry and native orange peel. You have Thom ( co-founder of Australian gin festival Juniperlooza) to thank for the Martini menu. He has hand picked some of Australia’s finest vodka and gin brands, including Sydney’s Archie Rose, Melbourne Gin Company, Queensland’s Botanic Australis, and the Yarra Valley’s Four Pillars.
Happy hour lasts a very happy three hours from 3pm to 6pm. The Local Spritz is just $10, or choose an urban ale with accompanying light bites of oysters with rose granita, mint and lemon ($2 each) or duck ribs with homemade barbecue sauce and jalapeño aioli ($10).
Stay on for dinner and settle in with a bottle: the wine list packs some big and beautiful Australian flavours. The by the glass list changes frequently but we love the bright taste and citrus rinse of the Santa & D’Sas Henty Riesling, whilst the Coulter Barbera from the Adelaide Hills is heavy with woody, cherry, earthy flavours. Mains hover around the $32 mark; standouts include the pork cutlet with spiced carrot, apple, fennel salad and crispy crackling and pan-fried barramundi with crushed potato, brussel sprouts and salsa verde.
With its cheery exterior and courtyard chatter of southside ladies catching up on the gossip, you’d be fooled into thinking that Shadowboxer is an afternoon stopover on your evening out. But stepping inside the polished interior, and you’ll find a sleek restaurant that is a dignified homage to Australia’s boutique food and liquor offering. Start with a spritz and stay for the bottle.
302 Toorak Rd
|Opening hours:||Mon-Thu noon-11.30pm; Fri, Sat: noon-1am; Sun noon-11pm|