What’s a restaurant like you doing in a place like this? Ramblr’s low-fi super-smarts help lead the postcode 3141 revival
It had to happen. The rise of Windsor left Chapel Street’s South Yarra end drying its tears with a multitude of for lease signs. But that upward trend has been followed by the inevitable correction. Evidence: Ramblr, which threw open its doors in South Yarra nine months ago to join the real estate Renaissance focused on the Prahran Market precinct.
A proud member of the New Dining paradigm, Ramblr is one of those joints that dresses down for dinner. The sum total of this narrow, long shopfront is three chefs sharing a tight open kitchen with a glowing charcoal grill, a handful of service-focused smart young staff on the floor, and a beardy cheer squad of people Known to Management taking up the ringside kitchen seats.
It’s the sort of place you might expect to find in Brunswick, or Collingwood, or dare we say it, Windsor. Not here in South Yarra, across the road from a Chemist Warehouse and within spitting distance of the bad memories haunting Chasers Nightclub.
In another hallmark of the South Yarra renaissance, Ramblr doesn’t have a million-dollar overdraft facility at its disposal, so it’s cementing its reputation in incrementals. After a recent close and spruce-up it now boasts a dark lick of paint and gauzy curtains, while the lighting – that make-or-break aspect that so many restaurants get criminally wrong – has been redesigned into hazy, uplit perfection.
This is a sibling venue to Leonard’s House of Love, but don’t let that whisky and burger-led den of iniquity give you a bum steer on something far more evolved. Chef and co-owner Nick Stanton, who’s been doing stuff worth taking notice of all the way from the Woods of Windsor to Nieuw Amsterdam, is taking risks to produce Ivy League dude food. That’s what we’re calling the fried Moreton Bay bug sandwich with iceberg and tartare sauce (for our money, the secret’s in the steamed, super-soft milk bun). Plenty of folk order the fried chicken – pickles on top; gravy on the side – but for just plain outré, look no further than the calamari noodles. They look like fat grubs minus the wriggle, frozen and sliced and flashed in smoked bone marrow, then casually dropped on a kimchi leaf with a striking whack of heat. Stanton gets the elephant stamp for originality. He’s got a similarly left-field approach to cobia crudo, with textbook finger lime and pink peppercorns joined by a slosh of burnt butter for coddling mid-winter appeal.
There’s a real East-West thing soaking into the tight menu. Pork scotch fillet off the charcoal grill reads kind of like tonkatsu with sauerkraut. Spanner crab noodles have the heady bite and masterstock-broth appeal of ramen, with bottarga leaping headlong into the umami party. Dessert goes the full tarte tatin. It’s good, although the fruit might have had longer in the oven.
Drinks? Try a trend-conscious one-page wine list that covers a flinty South African chenin blanc and a musky Austrian rosé – and in the way of any self-respecting venue trying to ingratiate itself with the neighbourhood, they let you take away with 20 per cent off the list price.
It’s been a long time since this strip could call itself something so warm and fuzzy as a neighbourhood – but it does have Ramblr, a singular little joint, a work in progress, and a place you want to eat in right now.
|Opening hours:||Tue-Sat noon-4pm; 5.30pm-late|