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  1. Oysters with condiments at LOTI St Kilda
    Photograph: LOTI
  2. Lobster, salad and turbot at LOTI St Kilda
    Photograph: LOTI
  3. Steak and salad at LOTI St Kilda
    Photograph: LOTI
  4. The marble bar at LOTI St Kilda
    Photograph: LOTI
  5. Ice skating sculpture outside LOTI St Kilda
    Photograph: LOTI

Time Out says

Fresh seafood, a beachside locale and a gorgeous fitout make this a St Kilda must

From the outside, LOTI looks like a small café, occupying the ground floor of one of the sinuous Saint Moritz buildings. You could walk past it without glancing into the floor-to-ceiling windows or taking much notice of the understated outdoor seating. That is, until you get to the giant sculpture of an ice skater, one leg pointed prettily behind her, her skate carving a path through the pavement. She is the titular Lady of the Ice (L-O-T-I), for whom the restaurant is named, a nod to the site's past life as a popular ice-skating rink. 

But there's nothing icy about the fitout of the venue, which is styled in warm neutrals, with terracotta and salmon accents by Melbourne-based interior architecture and design studio Mitchell and Eades. The serpentine, pink-veined marble bar neatly bisects the venue, with the bar side designed for cocktails, interesting and delicious wines and bar snacks like oysters and butter-glazed scampi skewers. The other side is the restaurant portion, with an ever-changing, seasonal menu that's weighted towards seafood and wild-foraged ingredients. 

Head chef Elijah 'EJ' Holland (Lûmé, NOMA Austalia, Aria, Quay) doesn't feel that a chef's job ends at the kitchen door, foraging for ingredients up and down the coast and taking the entire staff out to pick more than 2 tonnes of olives to make the restaurant's housemade olive oil. The result is a menu that changes not only seasonally but also based on what can be physically found on any given day. But LOTI is certainly not flying by the seat of its pants; every dish is carefully considered for maximum punch.

That butter-poached scampi skewer, for example, is a two-bite marvel, with the rich and creamy butter perfectly complementing the sweet, tender flesh. LOTI serves probably the prettiest assortment of oysters we've ever come across, with an ornate garnish of foraged plants setting off the gorgeous pops of colour that come from housemade condiments. These range from a housemade coconut vinegar to tiny, corked bottles of yuzu to bright red finger limes, whose flesh pops with a citrusy bite to elevate the oysters' natural briny creaminess. 

We fell head over heels for LOTI's take on a Cornetto, but we're a far cry from the dessert course. This 'Cornetto' contains smoked yellowfin tuna mousse and albacore tuna mojama, or cured tuna loin. The small cones are presented in a bowl of seashells, with edible flowers and plants topping the creamy mousse. If you've ever had truly excellent lox and cream cheese you'll appreciate the interplay of smoked fish in a creamy base can be a surprise delight. The mousse is beautifully seasoned, recalling the sea right outside the door and providing a textural contrast to the soft crunch of the slightly sweet, housemade cone. You might not have known that you needed a room-temperature, fishy version of the classic movie theatre treat, but you definitely do. 

Perhaps the most impressive dish on a menu chock-full of impressive dishes was the 'Ice Rink' ceviche. Coarsely chopped red emperor fish arrives mixed with some of those 2 tonnes of hand-picked Pyrenees olives and topped with puck of frozen fish stock, which evokes the restaurant's name and heritage. Diners are to smash the puck immediately to encourage it to melt and meld the flavours, while waitstaff pour the zesty sauce of native citrus over the dish. A vigorous mix will cook the raw fish in the citrus, resulting in a strongly flavoured ceviche that contrasts with some of the more delicate varieties served in other places. This ceviche is hearty and full-throated, with plenty of salt and acid to keep things fresh and a variety of textures and temperatures from the fish, olives and ice. It's the flavour equivalent of neon, with flavours and textures dialled all the way up. You'll be sad to see the bottom of the bowl; we certainly were.

If your tastes are more turf than surf, there is plenty on the menu to satisfy, including a barley-fed beef rump cap that's perfectly pink in the middle and served with salsify horseradish. You could cut this rump cap with a fork, and it's so tender it melts in our mouths. The bite of the horseradish cuts through the richness of the meat, making every bite a perfectly balanced pleasure. 

Save room for dessert, if you can – Holland's interest in riffing on ice cream classics doesn't start and end with the Cornetto. He makes a version of a Magnum, too – about a third the size the 7-Eleven version and presented on a wild-foraged twig. It's made with Daintree Rainforest chocolate and roasted chestnuts, with anise myrtle imparting a slight liquorice base note to the ice cream within. There's plenty of salt here too to balance out the sweetness and punch up the flavours. Unilever, eat your heart out. 

The wine list is designed to complement the unusual menu, and we didn't see any labels we recognise from huge producers. We particularly liked the Tamellini soave, with citrus and almond characteristics that play with the creamy oysters and their zippy toppings. Another favourite was the Santio gamay, a light-bodied King Valley red that sings with fruit and has the jammy perfume of a pinot noir without the accompanying occasional sourness. 

Cassidy Knowlton dined courtesy of LOTI.

Cassidy Knowlton
Written by
Cassidy Knowlton


14 The Esplanade
St Kilda
View Website
Opening hours:
Wed-Fri noon-midnight; Sat-Sun 10am-midnight
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