With an all-occasions attitude and an approachable French bistro menu, Coppersmith is the new local South Melbourne was hoping for
Until recently, South Melbourne’s pub scene was all about a parma and a punt on the pokies. But many of the old girls are getting facelifts, bringing serious food and a fresh attitude to the neighbourhood. Among them, the newly renovated Coppersmith Hotel (once the shabby Cricketer’s Arms) offers boutique accommodation along with a rooftop deck, a classy pub bar and a neat little bistro doing classic French comfort food.
The big white building is decked out in light wood and dark grey accents lit up by bright drop lighting. On a Saturday you might find yourself in the thick of a 35th birthday posse, the hotel-lobby-style beats providing background noise to the buzz, and an up-collar crowd who are bee-lining to the rooftop for a view of the city.
In the bistro, tucked into a nook of the main room, Albert Park's older residents can be seen celebrating the EMD menu and a wine list that keeps it safe. Chef Daniel Southern, most recently of French bistro Comme, knows how to do classic, and dishes come off with the assured grace of experience. Asparagus soup is pure comfort, the bold flavours of salt cod and black garlic used to enhance, not overpower. Iron-rich calf liver terrine is brought to life with simple parsley puree and pickled onion.
But it’s Southern’s creative touches that make this food worth coming back for. A quail Kiev special sees that most old-school of dishes updated, the crumbed and baked breasts stuffed with garlic butter and served with the sweet little legs seared on the bone. Confit potato, squeaky leeks, and bright, sticky jus all bring the dish together. Vegan “cheesecake” is an exercise in textures with fresh strawberries, strawberry jelly and puree arranged over whipped coconut cream and a crunchy nut base. It’s not the dense cheesecake of dessert fantasies, but rather a well-timed departure from the rich mains (although there’s chocolate cake with salted caramel and a lemon curd soufflé if you need your dreams fulfilled).
The approachable wine list offers limited by-the-glass options like Marborough sav blanc and Central Otago pinot noir. But recommendations are enthusiastic and the genuinely caring wait staff will happily pour you as many tastes as you need to find a match.
Service at Coppersmith is a highlight. Around the room, waiters chat casually with punters, yet never miss a beat when it comes to getting the job done. Even on a Saturday night with the bistro tables all full, they don’t seem rushed, and are honestly invested in everyone’s good time.
There’s something to be said for the comfort of classic French bistro food, and served in a classy, chilled-out pub environment: it’s a recipe for the perfect local. And in a city where queuing up for share plates seems like the norm, it’s nice to know that you can still book a table on a Saturday night.
435 Clarendon St
|Opening hours:||Daily 7am-late|