Paul Wilson returns with a restaurant that’s a nostalgic trip down Old Blighty memory lane. Bring on the triple cooked chips
Paul Wilson really has worked in restaurants long enough to know not to open his own. He knows all about the low margins, the staff shortages, the endless slog, the customers never happier than when disputing the definition of a medium-rare steak. Yet here we are, at the triple Wilson layer cake of a café, enoteca and brasserie, with his name on the door in gold lettering for the very first time. Looks like he was on the smart money after all, because Wilson & Market is good. Damned good.
The Wilson story to date: After arriving in Melbourne among the Brit-pack vanguard and wowing everyone at Radii then the Botanical, he went off to become a journeyman consultant across the industry, in the process reinventing himself one of the leaders of the Mexican revolution at the Newmarket Hotel, Acland St Cantina and Lady Carolina.
And now after a protracted building process that feels like it’s taken the better part of five years, not two, he’s back captaining the flagship draw of the Prahran market on its quest to be the city’s poshest purveyor of fine foods.
The aesthetic of Wilson & Market is very south of the river, darling. Cold tones; aesthetically austere. Decorations tend towards enormous art-directed portraits of naked women, including one happy-looking blonde reclining with only a couple of golden Labradors for company. We predict no one eating here will ever be short of discussion points.
Wilson & Market keeps diner real estate options open. There’s a seafood bar, where oysters and platters of fruits de mer are the go, chased by a list of crafty Australian white spirits and mixers gussied up with market produce like coriander, berries and mint, in a glassed-in atrium fronting Commercial Road. The main dining area hums to the sound of diners swooning at the signature-dish resurrection of Radii’s truffled soft polenta with Reggiano, poached egg and fresh black truffle – a dish of excessive luxe comfort that’s so fragrant it’s inhaled as much as it is swallowed. If you’re lucky the nightly specials will feature an Angassi oyster served warm on the shell under a beurre blanc blanket with leek and more truffle; consider it the Cole Porter to the polenta’s Noel Coward.
As is the increasing way of the world, bread costs $4. Slathered in seaweed butter, it goes pretty swimmingly with fat jubes of raw yellowfin tuna with a busy salad of bittersweet crunch (raddichio, pistachios, radish, herbs and pomegranate seeds) with a jazz-hands dressing of fingerlime and pomegranate molasses. Wilson clearly knows his audience: the hefty list of biodynamic and organic salads extend to include one with wood-grilled calamari and radicchio with hidden flavour bombs of pan-fried guanciale.
The roast chicken has received almost as much press as the truffled polenta – deservedly, thanks to a frenetic behind-the-scenes production of brining, smoking and roasting that creates a bird that’s best in show. A half Milawa chook comes on a wooden board with a pan of garlicky croutons and pancetta, salad greens, and a jug of gravy. This is where the triple-cooked chips, another Wilson hallmark from yesteryear, come into play. Order a serve, rustling in their copper pot with garlic aioli on the side – and discuss the science of chipping because in this, if not in European geopolitics, the Brits surely know best.
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|Opening hours:||Tue-Sat 5.30pm-late|