A new star twinkles in the café-dining firmament
Higher Ground is hot.
This new café-restaurant, from the team behind Top Paddock and Kettle Black, is incredibly ambitious. With 130 seats across three levels, 16 chefs who can put Pope Joan, Supernormal and Jacques Reymond on their CVs, and a squad of smart, unflappable wait staff, Higher Ground is taking breakfast, lunch and dinner to vertiginous new heights.
The first thing you notice is the beauty of the interior. Housed in a heritage-listed former powerhouse and inspired by glam hotel lobbies, the café has a 15-metre-high ceiling creating a sense of spaciousness and drama. There's a mezzanine level with dangling greenery and glorious arched windows. Even if you don’t need to go to the loo, go to the loo. They’re positively gorgeous.
Staff speed about, deftly delivering platters to punters whose delighted chatter fills the space and heightens the anticipation of the people outside. And once those outside get inside, they’re not disappointed.
Dashes of inventiveness characterise head chef Nate Wilkins’ day menu (ranging from $8.50 for toast to $26 for a Japanese fish broth). Avocado on sourdough is dressed with citrus salt, scrambled eggs come with curry leaf and housemade flat bread and a semolina porridge features dried plum and sesame.
The kale salad is beautiful. Frilly kale – roasted to a gorgeous nuttiness – mingles with broccoli florets, mini brussels sprouts and flawless segments of avocado, the whole green melange sitting atop a creamy almond hummus. The dish is scattered with puffed rice bubbles and crowned with a poached egg. Mild and milky cured kingfish slivers (dressed with nori and ponzu) is the optional extra; it’s welcome but not essential.
The Wagyu short rib beef roll is modestly magnificent. A brioche-style bun accommodates a reassuringly generous clump of tender meat and a refreshing thatch of shredded carrot, cucumber and bean shoots. Just when you’re wondering if a little kick of something may be missing, red chillies and coriander sprigs deliver it.
The drinks list encompasses delicate, exotic teas from China and India, fresh juices (petite servings, though), and robust coffee (espresso, filter and batch brew) from their own Cremorne roaster, Square One.
Higher Ground is special: with deft service, striking surrounds and beautiful food, it’s pushing the boundaries of how we eat out in Melbourne. If you can, avoid the peak periods. If you can’t, you may just have to grin and wait. But be inspired by Stevie Wonder: I’m gonna’ keep on trying, till I reach my higher ground.
You’ll be very glad you did.
|Venue name:||Higher Ground|
650 Little Bourke St
|Opening hours:||Mon-Wed 7am-4pm; Thu, Fri 7am-11pm; Sat 8am-11pm; Sun 8am-4pm|