Get us in your inbox



  • Restaurants
  • South Melbourne
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. James
    Patricia Sofra
  2. James
    Patricia Sofra
  3. James
    Patricia Sofra
  4. James
    Patricia Sofra
  5. James
    Patricia Sofra
  6. James
    Patricia Sofra
  7. James
    Patricia Sofra

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

From a Covid-19 pivot to one of South Melbourne's quiet overachievers – James presents a near-faultless menu

Between Covid-19, the great sandwich/bagel boom and the growing disinterest in brunch, cafés have not had it easy the last few years. But rather than let the climate get them down, the James team took the transition in stride, shifting gears to an all-day, Korean-inspired menu led by chef Sangsoo Kim – and they’re all the better for it. 

To call a dining experience faultless is a big call but my time at James is the closest I’ve come in a while. I can’t comment on their status as Wynward, the café they operated as previously, but on all counts except maybe the name, James is a massive win. 

By day, the venue serves coffee; lunch bowls like spanner crab ramen and wild mushrooms over sticky rice; and a smattering of small plates plucked from their dinner menu. At night, the selection is more extensive and includes a set menu, which is probably the best way to experience James for the first time.

Food is complex but accessible, and prices are fair too at around $14 to $16 a dish. Each comes with two identical portions, seemingly designed for sharing, though one could easily make a nice solo meal out of a couple of small plates. 

It pays to crowdsource photos if you’re unsure – this menu is hard to gauge off description alone. The charred cucumber, for instance, comes halved in two long strips, spread with yoghurt, and finished with sliced grapes, black olive crumb and the subtle spice of ​​​​shichimi. It’s a delicate dish that could nearly pass as a palate cleanser if not for the briny hits of olive that linger on the tongue.

Meanwhile, the mussels, stuffed with smoked tomato and surrounded by creamy soybean broth, hit you with flavour from every angle – a delightfully punchy dish in a very small package. Equally impressive are the royal red prawns, served on a sliver of prawn cracker with citrus-spiked mayo. It’s simple enough but the smoky tomato powder pushed it over the edge, evoking memories of the delicious dust that collects in the bottom of a crisp bag.

The restaurant was buzzing with what appeared to be friends of the owners, though I was treated just as cordially and swiftly – a trademark of good hospitality. 

Maybe it was the sun shining through the floor-length front windows or the South Australian chenin blanc (one of several notable wine offerings) going straight to my head, but my memory of James is nothing but positive. Though it’s quietly gaining notoriety, I predict it’s only a matter of time until the gospel of James is spread.

Written by
Quincy Malesovas


323 Clarendon St
Opening hours:
Tue 5-11pm; Wed-Sat noon-3pm, 5-11pm
You may also like
You may also like

The best things in life are free.

Get our free newsletter – it’s great.

Loading animation
Déjà vu! We already have this email. Try another?

🙌 Awesome, you're subscribed!

Thanks for subscribing! Look out for your first newsletter in your inbox soon!