Pretend you're by the beach at Prahran's nautical seafood bar
Melbourne suffers a major identity problem once the warm weather hits. The cosy bars that housed you through rainy winter nights with whiskeys and bottomless glasses of pinot are just not suited to Melbourne’s hot summers. So, where to now?
The answer is Montereys on Chapel Street. It's open, sunny, and oh-so-fresh and is providing a dose of polish to an untapped block on the South Yarra strip. Welcome to your new summer hang out.
Like the hidden seafood shack of your wildest dreams, Montereys is all soaring ceilings and wooden finishes. The white-washed walls are dotted with nautical curios, from mounted trout to vintage fishing nets, and the bar is a sturdy, old-timey number. Nautical themes can often equal corny, but Montereys is more Hamptons than hokey fish shack.
Kelly Dunn and Mark Catsburg of Leonard's House of Love are the real-life Ma and Pa duo behind this new restaurant and bar, which was conceived during the couple’s recent trip to the States, and they've brought those seaside town vibes back with them.
A menu filled with oysters, ceviche and Maine lobster rolls has the makings of a long, leisurely, lunch waiting to happen - all you need to do is pull the trigger. The Maine Lobster roll with butter and chives is melt-in-your mouth good, and with two chunky brioche rolls crammed with creamy lobster meat and served with house-made chips and pickles it's a sizeable meal. Or if you only need a snack the kingfish ceviche with calamari and corn is bright and tangy.
The extensive drinks menu isn’t one to hurry through either. The cocktails are complex and interesting and steer well clear of the too sweet basket. The Smuggler’s Run combines strong savoury flavours like basil, lemon, and cracked pepper with fresh raspberry, and rests it all on a vodka and light rum base. You might expect it to blow your socks off but it’s a mild-mannered drink. Others on the list aren’t so tame - the Palm Beach Paloma (cucumber, jalapenos, smoky mezcal, grapefruit, lime, soda, with a grey sea salt rim) is a great pre-dinner apéritif: it’s chunky, tangy, spicy, and packs a punch.
Beer drinkers rejoice, because this is a venue with your best interests at heart. There's an international collection from America (Anchor Stream, Blue Moon, Brooklyn Lager), Hawaii (Kona Big Wave), and Mexico (Tecate), plus Aussie craft favourites like Stone & Wood and Pirate Life. On tap, Sydney's Young Henry's rules the roost with their Newtowner pale ale, English bitter style real ale, and cloudy cider.
Dunn has an extensive fine dining background with stints at Supernormal and Woods Of Windsor on her CV and now that she's in charge of her own list it's primarily Australian with a handful of international additions, including the delicious La Crema Pinot Noir from the bar’s namesake, Monterey, which is light, buttery, and perfect for seafood. There’s plenty of creamy sparkling options for sunny afternoons sessions, too.
This is the type of venue Melbourne deserves more of: classy and polished, but still full of character. It’s a place that you could while away hours (and bottles) over lunch, but also somewhere to impress a first date. The cavernous back room and soon-to-be-opened upstairs bar will make Monterey’s a popular spot for boozy day events, but the front bar still feels like a Chapel Street walk in for one. The location is not quite Prahran, not quite Windsor and we’re thinking this will play in their favour as a welcome escape from the stock standard pub options on hot summer days.
218 Chapel St
|Opening hours:||Tue-Sat 11am-1pm; Sun 11am-11pm|