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Larissa Dubecki

Larissa Dubecki

Articles (13)

The best French restaurants in Melbourne

The best French restaurants in Melbourne

We might be 16,760 kilometres from Paris, but geography cannot dampen Melbourne's love affair with la belle France. The city's leading French restaurants are a first-class ticket to the Old World — with just a little help from steak frites, crème brulée and all their delicious handmaidens.  For more food guidance, peruse our round-up of Melbourne's best restaurants – or take a trip down south to the best Italian restaurants.

The best Spanish restaurants in Melbourne

The best Spanish restaurants in Melbourne

There's no cuisine that brings the sunshine quite like Spanish. From one-bite tapas wonders to a paella that demands a group of mates packing an appetite, it's a compelling way to travel via your stomach. Not booking a ticket to San Sebastian anytime soon? Fear not: our list of the ten best Spanish spots in Melbourne will have you flying on wings of desire. Looking to eat well without breaking the bank? Check out our list of the best cheap eats in Melbourne.

Best New Restaurant: Time Out Food Awards 2019

Best New Restaurant: Time Out Food Awards 2019

Winner: Greasy Zoe's The end of the line is a good place for new beginnings. Close to the Hurstbridge terminus, where suburbia trickles away into the countryside, you’ll find the little restaurant that could. Housing only 15 seats, a vinyl-spinning turntable and a surfeit of talent from chef Zoe Birch and her partner, chef-slash-sommelier-slash-floor manager Lachlan Gardner, Greasy Zoe’s sings in the key of “my way”. What feels like a farmhouse kitchen – all red brick and wood, with food-based artworks adorning the walls and the occasional comically large marrow sitting tableside for decoration – is the hardworking home of a uniquely self-sufficient, two-person operation rolling in harmony with their locality. Mackerel hangs above the grill, slowly curing to be grated over rainbow trout Lake Eildon. The cheese from the Yarra Valley’s Stone and Crow. The dry-aged chicken from Timbarra farm, near Healesville. The charcuterie, including a duck salami with flavour that goes on for weeks, from their own kitchen. The modern smarts of Birch’s menu also includes some ridiculously licentious veg-on-veg snack action, including purple congo potato crisps piped with garlicky skordalia. And any restaurant that sees fit to serve a cheese course of rhubarb-filled housemade croissant covered in a blizzard of aged buffalo cheese is simply OK with us.  A set menu scenario priced at $85 for upwards of eight multi-elemental courses has a Hawke-era concept of value. Just in case you’re wondering

Restaurant of the Year: Time Out Food Awards 2019

Restaurant of the Year: Time Out Food Awards 2019

Winner: Oakridge Winery dining is a bit of a thing right now. You only have to look at all the young folk colonising tables at Pt Leo Estate, Tuck’s Ridge and Oakridge to realise that tumbling out of Revolver at 6am is no longer the only thing the average twentysomething aspires to on a weekend. And it can only be a good thing, right? Especially when signs are that winery restaurants are following their demographic cues. Stuffy winery fine dining (you know, with the linen and Escoffier-style sauces) is going the way of the dinosaurs, replaced by food that gently interrogates the wine, food and terroir nexus.   Which brings us to Oakridge in the Yarra Valley. A typical architectural monument to mammon surrounded by sloping hills of vines and an impressive kitchen garden, it’s the home of some spectacular wines (hello, 864 Funder chardonnay) and a buzzing cellar door. But make sure you time your visit for the chance to step inside to the broad-boned dining room where floor-to-ceiling windows afford David Attenborough-worthy views. Inside the kitchen, non-hierarchical cheffing talents Matt Stone and Jo Barrett have spent the past four years honing their location-sensitive craft into something approaching peak deliciousness.  Take the sourdough, made with biodynamic wheat that Barrett mills each day. Her unwavering commitment to superior carbs is repaid in a caramel-crusted loaf served with the gentle tang of buttermilk curds from a small herd of Jersey cows who live nearby. It’s

Legend Award: Time Out Food Awards 2019

Legend Award: Time Out Food Awards 2019

Winner: The Grossi Family Imagine a Melbourne without the Grossis. Imagine no Grossi Florentino, the fine dining pleasure palace drenched in Old World finery. Imagine no Tuscan heavyweight steaks at the Grill, or bowl of comfort at the Cellar Bar, the very same space where recently arrived immigrant Pietro Grossi had his first drink in 1960. No honouring of aperitivo hour at Ombra. No cocktails and midnight spaghetti and associated good times at Arlechin, or lunchtime pizza-pita pockets at Pezzo, or Venetian cicchetti at Merchant.  But beyond the selfish concerns of our stomachs, let’s get philosophical for a minute. Had Melbourne never welcomed the Grossi name it would be a lesser city all round. The clan is so deeply enmeshed in Melbourne’s restaurant DNA it would be impossible to chart all the people who have passed through their doors professionally and emerged the better for it. It would be equally impossible to gauge where diners would be, not only in our understanding of the perfect agnolotti del plin, but the very notion of Italian-hearted cooking and hospitality.  Through three generations of hard graft, not to mention some damned fine cooking and service, they’ve cemented their place in the city’s dining history. From Pietro, who took the first punt, to his son Guy who took the second, and now the third generation keeping the dream alive (Guy’s son Carlo, working the floor of Florentino with his father’s charm and his own cheek, springs to mind). And that’s not to f

Chef of the Year: Time Out Food Awards 2019

Chef of the Year: Time Out Food Awards 2019

Winner: Thi Le, Anchovy Like the rest of us, Thi Le wasn’t the most promising cook when she first started out. Her childhood excursions into the world of Kan Tong chicken have been consigned to history, but maybe even then the signs were there. One of her most fondly remembered dishes is steak tartare, thanks to her refugee mother’s waste-not, want-not philosophy in using the meat left over from making pho. And unlike all but 0.01 per cent of us, Le became a mighty fine cook. She learned in the kitchens of the greats, including Andrew McConnell, Christine Manfield and Dave Verheul, and shades of all three inform a menu at her Richmond restaurant, owned with partner Jia-Yen Lee. But it’s her own special sauce that makes it realise the giddy potential of modern Asian-Australian food in one exuberant, we’ll-do-it-our-way package. Fusion? No way, Jose. Try Le’s swooningly aromatic Vietnamese-style blood pudding and you wouldn’t dare breathe such heresy. Le and Lee really sum it up best on their website, in their typical no-nonsense way: “Modern Asian. Modern Australian. A little in between.”  By combining South East Asian traditions with classical technique and adding a frisson of untranslatable brilliance, Le’s food says no to boring. Sure, she can do simple – a Bundarra pigs’ head pastry with relish looks unassuming, but you’ll have to resist the urge to order four and call it a meal. Then she’ll hit you with pickled mussels dressed in the funky-fresh crunch of a sambal and fre

Best Café: Time Out Food Awards 2019

Best Café: Time Out Food Awards 2019

Winner: Ima Project Café The two overriding principles of the past Melbourne café year intersect beautifully at an unassuming Carlton street corner. At first glance, the sunshiny spot where Elgin runs into Drummond might appear to be merely another cutely designed café where the Proud Mary coffee comes in covetable ceramics and smiley staff make you feel right at home. But Ima Project Café quietly personifies the rise of the Japanese breakfast as well as the ethical and sustainable ethos that has been busily creeping into the mainstream.  It feels only right and proper looking at Ima’s menu that the land of the rising sun is our 2019 breakfast inspo. It’s here that you’ll find not bacon but hibachi-grilled ocean trout, bright with miso and lime glaze, ready to hang its hat as a side dish to Japanese twists on Aussie-Anglo classics, from baked eggs to a fried egg brekkie bun. It’s where you’ll find Japanese breakfast sets – think of the gratifyingly separate compartments of airline dining, then add flavour – and a pork tonkatsu lunch set, with hot mustard, rice, miso and the cut-through acid of house pickles. Behind the scenes, a deep-rooted ethical, minimal-waste philosophy sees the kitchen opt for “ugly” fruit and vegetables, repurpose as much as they can, including the bonito flakes left over after the dashi-making process which go into the housemade furikake seasoning, and back it all with a hellbent recycling program targeting everything from soft plastics to oil and coff

Best Cheap Eat: Time Out Food Awards 2019

Best Cheap Eat: Time Out Food Awards 2019

Winner: Mr Lee's Foods First, an apology to Mr Lee’s cult of devoted followers. Anointing it our cheap eats champ of 2019 is only going to increase the queues outside this unassuming little Ringwood East shop, which means you’ll probably have to get there even earlier to grab the first of 20-odd seats at service kick-off. We are sorry. But we are equally not sorry. Greater Melbourne deserves to know what lies within these walls. And sorry, vegos, because this one is most definitely not for you.  A housemade soondae (Korean blood sausage), steamed pork belly and dwaeji guk bap (pork soup with rice) are the only things on offer on the menu of owner and chef Young Ju Lee. Mr Korean Real Deal, he only recently started offering a menu in English and doesn’t bother with modern affectations such as a website, so busy is he with his restaurant and wholesaling to Korean grocers. It’s reason to love him immediately, but when you get into the soondae you’ll love him even more. This South Korean contribution to the blood sausage canon results in fragrant slices of mild-flavoured, bouncy sausage with steamed slivers of liver and fatty intestine riding shotgun, ready to be dipped in a roasted sesame salt or an umami bomb of salted, fermented baby shrimp. Sound niche? You must be a pork fan, certainly. But to try it is to be delighted. And if you’re more at the gateway drug stage of Korean food appreciation, go for the steamed pork belly to dip into doenjang (soy bean paste) luscious with s

Best Fine Dining Restaurant: Time Out Food Awards 2019

Best Fine Dining Restaurant: Time Out Food Awards 2019

Winner: Kazuki's Kazuki’s was born in Daylesford in 2011, and last year grew into long pants, moved out of home and left a forwarding address to its new digs on – of all places – Lygon Street. It was a bold move for a restaurant that has as much in common with Melbourne’s Aussie-Italian heartland as agedashi tofu has to pizza by the metre. Yet what could have been the whims of a headstrong teenager have manifested our fine diner of the year. Bravo, Kazuki and Saori Tsuya. Ask chef Kazuki why he moved his restaurant to the big smoke and he'll reply with an Edmund Hillary-esque line about it being there. Yet as lovely as the Zen-like fitout is with its marriage of yellow-golden carpet and pale blue-grey walls, overseen by the austere full-moon beauty of supersized paper lanterns, it’s not simply a scaling of city heights that has won our hearts. It’s the food on the delicate ceramic plates that demands enduring love. Kazuki’s remains a Japanese-ish, French-ish modern restaurant but the conception and execution has evolved. The snacks are swoony – crisp nori, creamy taramasalata and sake-soaked salmon roe, or an ethereal chicken liver profiterole bursting with Davidson plum jam and perfected by a bittersweet frosting of plum dust. The menu consists of elliptical three-ingredient codes that translate to the unexpected. “Hapuka, yuzu, daikon” is a dish of pure edible luxe, the meaty fish coddled in the yuzu-spiked velvet of a beurre blanc with salty pops of avruga. It’s hard to c

Best Casual Dining Restaurant: Time Out Food Awards 2019

Best Casual Dining Restaurant: Time Out Food Awards 2019

Winner: Napier Quarter Occupying a character-drenched bluestone on a Fitzroy corner, Napier Quarter is a dining-world unicorn – the perfect local. Perhaps we could even throw a ticker-tape parade in its honour for satisfying all dining and drinking whims from early morning to late at night. It has been here a while (since 2016, to be exact), so why is it only now being anointed our best casual diner? After spending the past few years elsewhere in the fine dining wilderness, its launch chef, Eileen Horsnell, has returned and taken it A-league. She’s come packing breakfasts of distinction (a special shout-out to the bottarga-sprinkled boiled eggs with rye toast and dill butter, the ultimate incarnation of eggs and soldiers). And once the sun is over the yardarm, her exacting eye for the kind of wine-friendly food that pushes the envelope but doesn’t leave you blushing about it comes into its own. One of our favourite pasta dishes of the year (certainly the one that Instagrams the best), the housemade pappardelle lolls about in the wicked company of Parmigiano-Reggiano and thyme with a golden egg yolk cracked into its nest-like centre. Cacio e pepe, you’ve been served.  What you get here is the food equivalent of three chords and the truth. Nettle soup that’s all liquid velvet perfection. Sardines on an agrodolce Mediterranean holiday. Veg dishes that are more than the sum of their parts. Of course, a place like Napier Quarter does not live on food alone and the blackboard wine

Hot Talent Award: Time Out Food Awards 2018

Hot Talent Award: Time Out Food Awards 2018

Winner: Zack Furst, Ides Maybe Zack Furst chose cooking. Maybe cooking chose him. Let’s face it: professional cheffing might be the only possible fate for a kid who started helping out with his parents’ catering company in regional Victoria when he hit double digits, talked Michael Ryan into taking him on in the Provenance kitchen as an after-school job at age 15, and the following year moved to Melbourne to take up an apprenticeship at the French Brasserie under Gabriel Martin. His career might have been a fait accompli but Furst, now 25, has approached it with surgical precision. He’s made every move count, working with Nic Poelaert at Embrasse and Brooks, then Ben Shewry at Attica. Peter Gunn’s sous chef since the opening of Ides, he’s been on the “one to watch” list for a while now thanks  to a mix of talent, hard graft and an eye for pop-up events putting the old generation on notice. His cooking swings thoroughly modern – “I like things to taste how they are meant to taste. My cooking is very practical and stripped back, and I like to eat things that taste delicious rather than look pretty” – but Furst isn’t taking the modern young chef’s approach of grabbing the first head chef gig that comes along. “I could take a head chef position now, but it can stunt your development in a way. I consider myself a leader in the kitchen, but I want to stagger my growth. Give me three to five year, and I’ll be looking for that head chef role. This is my life’s career, and I don’t wan

People’s Choice: Best Restaurant

People’s Choice: Best Restaurant

Winner: Maha You've got to hand it to Shane Delia: the man rests on no laurels. He’s got plenty going on (the Biggie Smalls kebab joints; the TV commitments; the cookbooks; the catering; the charity and sporting club and car ambassadorships), but he’s kept his eyes on the Maha prize. His flagship restaurant has had quite the journey, declaring independence from the Made Establishment five years ago and celebrating its tenth birthday earlier this year with the expensive facelift and bells-and-whistles relaunch it deserves. So maybe that’s why Delia and Maha have taken out the 2018 People’s Choice Award. But spankingly expensive new fitouts don’t always translate to happy customers. So perhaps we could chalk up its popularity to the rising tribe of vegetarians and vegans who make it their go-to joint when they want a big, splashy night out – the kind of night where a pumpkin risotto simply won’t cut it. Maha certainly brings the goods in that department, delivering a four-, six- or eight-course guilt-free deg that swings from arak-spiked cucumbers in a bed of yoghurt and finished with a judicious dusting of dried olive to agrodolce salt-baked beetroot with a rich walnut and macadamia tarator and the striking meat substitute of lentil dumplings jazzed to the max with truffle and mushrooms. But, like the ABC’s poll-master Antony Green crunching the numbers at the federal election, we’ll have to admit the slow-roasted lamb shoulder could be running interference in this year’s vote

Listings and reviews (114)

Gimlet at Cavendish House

Gimlet at Cavendish House

There’s something in the air at Gimlet. A sense of anticipation and unadulterated enjoyment; a palpable celebration that the 2020s can deliver something so wonderfully and glitzily 1920s (pre-crash, of course). Walk into the glamorously retooled Art Deco beauty Cavendish House on the corner of Russell and Exhibition and you’re whisked to another era, when people dressed for dinner and seafood arrived on silver platters. There are twinkling chandeliers and horseshoe-shaped booths, rippled glass and winking brass – and bless the amphitheatre-like tiered seating for making it easy to spy on the media-influencer-politico-celebutant faces flocking here like moths to a flame. Sigh. Andrew McConnell’s latest addition to his glittering restaurant portfolio (Cutler and Co, Cumulus Inc, Marion et al) is a full-throated celebration of occasion dining. The soul of a New York steakhouse spliced with the DNA of a Parisian bistro is pure restaurant classicism, with subtle mod-Oz flourishes carbon-dating it to the modern era. So you’re thinking it all sounds wonderful yet achingly expensive? Well, yes, it can be – especially when you factor in a wine list that favours the bravery of interesting small producers, both Old World and New, whose back stories, as told by the crack team of sommeliers, encourage rummaging ever deeper into the pockets. If that dangerous undertow is to be avoided, our advice is simply this: grab a bar table, order the delicious house cocktail (the gin and lime-driven

Grill Americano

Grill Americano

First impressions count, and Grill Americano delivers plenty of good ones. Chris Lucas’ latest restaurant distils a retro-glam brief into a squelchingly expensive fit-out of terrazzo floors and royal blue leather seats, a sweeping white marble bar lit by individual deco-ish lamps and the sultry backdrop of ink-blue walls. Gosh, it’s nice. Add a soundtrack that will whisk you straight to the Amalfi Coast in the company of Dickie Greenleaf and it’s almost impossible to resist. Unlike Society, Lucas’ big restaurant play of 2021, this isn’t a venue ruled by highfalutin technique and chef-auteur worship. A produce-driven grill hanging at the Italian end of the steakhouse dial requires little explanation, bless it. With all the stylistic ducks in a row, the kitchen’s mission is simply to keep up its end of the bargain, and it does so with oodles of confidence across the canon of oysters, charcuterie and pasta to steak and its merry band of luxe proteins from the wood grill. But let’s start with the important business of snacks, which tend to fall into the "fried, salty and cheesy" bracket. There are arancini, miniaturised into crisp-crusted two-bite wonders, bedded in pea puree and showered in a tangy fluff of Reggiano. Little squares of fried polenta get their cacio e pepe on with a blizzard of parmesan and spicy aioli. And stuffed with a farce of chicken, pork and veal, the fried green olives champion the "luxe nonna" category. The mantra of simplicity guides a menu long enoug

Bistro Thierry

Bistro Thierry

One word: snails. Baked in their shells, the snails (sorry, escargot) at this Toorak stalwart arrive in a bubbling green parsley-accented garlicky ooze so deliciously pungent they scream "must order" to every table in this gloriously decorated salon. Pretend you're in the eleventh arrondissement over a spread of pan-seared foie gras, onion soup crowned with a gruyere crouton, confit duck lug and a classic beef bourguignon. The wine list similarly leans to France and deserves a special occasion splash-out.

Smith St Bistrot

Smith St Bistrot

It was nigh on perfect that Smith St Bistrot opened its ornate doors for the first time on Valentine's Day. The latest addition to Scott Pickett's growing Brady Bunch clan of restaurants is steeped in the romance of 1920s Paris, from a stage-set salon to please the most devout Francophile to a menu steeped in the certainties of snails, saucisson sec and soufflé.  The Collingwood site last really rocked Melbourne when it was St Crispin, delivering Pickett's classical training at London's august The Square at a time when the small plates revolution was upon us. More recently it had an Italian whirl as Lupo. But the trend wheel keeps on turning and has now returned us to a love affair with gay Paris, untroubled by too much in the way of modern chef trickery but steeped in the service of full-throated deliciousness.  Look no further than those snails. They're delivered in a buttery vol-au-vent puff carapace; the vegetal notes of parsley sauce harmonise with the garlicky molluscs while the crowning glory of a herb and shallot salad brings the zing. Or a tuna tartare; glistening jubes of yellowfin in a subtle soy and sesame marinade with a bisected quail egg and wakame-dusted, vinegar-tanged gaufrettes (lattice crisps to the rest of us) for scooping duties.  There's an extravagance about Smith St Bistrot, and we're not just talking about the $250 caviar service. Everything wears a patina of age, from the enormous, artfully distressed mirrors to the minutiae of mismatched crockery.

Public Wine Shop

Public Wine Shop

Public Wine Shop is the very model of the modern-era wine bar. There’s soul spinning on the turntable, rows of wine bottles lining the brick wall and a communal table to rule them all. Altogether, it adds up to that incalculable feeling that you’ve somehow stumbled into a mate’s place rather than the new haunt of one of Australia’s most promising chefs. On Fitzroy North’s increasingly interesting St Georges Road shopping drag, Public Wine Shop would probably prefer top billing for its wine. With award-winning sommelier Campbell Burton as its owner and an impressive quiver of natural, organic, oxidative and all-round minimally messed-with wines at the disposal of staff (including Sarah Fitzsimmons, co-founder of Hobart’s equally impressive Dier Makr), it could live and die on the booze alone. But Ali Currey-Voumard (ex-Agrarian Kitchen) steals the show without betraying the un-shouty beauty that made her one of Australia’s breakout chef stars of recent years. Her food leans towards Italy and France and is unfancy and as wine-friendly as it gets. Start with Sydney rock oysters with a squeeze of lemon and a wodge of baguette that also proves the perfect super-soaker to the ouefs mayonnaise – a gooey-centred egg cloaked in aioli with anchovies and celery leaves draped artfully over the top. It’s an early signature that fully deserves to be on the menu forevermore. Currey-Voumard’s beef carpaccio is another example of her talent for taking a ubiquitous dish and elevating it abo

Robata

Robata

Amid a time of deep division and uncertainty, food on sticks remains a failsafe solace to the ills of the world. And few do it better than the Japanese, whose pursuit of grilled stick perfection has seen countless trees meet their end. This might explain why Melbourne is experiencing a micro-trend of Japanese grilling over charcoal, otherwise known as robatayaki. Chris Lucas’ Yakimono has flicked its Bic lighter up at the top end of Collins Street, and a few blocks downhill at the corner of Flinders and Exhibition, the group responsible for San Telmo have for the first time in their decade-long history turned their sights from South America to Japan. It’s less revolution, more evolution at the former home of George Calombaris’ Gazi. Partly that’s thanks to a more-dash-than-cash makeover of the proud industrial space, where the terracotta pots that once undulated across the ceiling have been replaced by a colourful phalanx of lightboxes in a convincing simulation of the Tokyo subway system. Also playing its card is the fungible nature of charcoal grilling, the Esperanto of the food world, which switches out its national colours as easily as the Russians at the Olympics The easygoing pleasures of yakitori cooked cleanly over binchotan charcoal deserve credit for a happy dining room rumble. Take your pick of the chicken: juicy thigh threaded with spring onion, chewy hearts with a bracing sprinkle of togarashi, or a charry meatball, turned from meh to must-do thanks to its side

Yakimono

Yakimono

For anyone suffering mild agoraphobia after the non-events of the past two years, the jolt of first encountering Yakimono is like electric shock therapy. Tucked inside the swank-fest of the 80 Collins development, it’s a love letter to the futuristic excess of Tokyo: dimly lit, suffused with the exotic glow of pink and purple neon and thrumming to a soundtrack that has every second person activating their Shazam app. It’s a bit Blade Runner 2049, a bit izakaya-in-outer-space and final proof that owner Chris Lucas is equal parts showman and restauranteur. There’s no escaping the pulse of energy humming through the joint, but the ringside seats around the enormous horseshoe-shaped bar on level one are where you want to be. The open kitchen’s kinetic energy and charcoal sizzle turn it into dinner and a show, leaving the more sedate level two suffering the FOMO factor, unless (a) you’re after the alfresco option on the broad balcony; or (b) your larger group is looking for some serious booth action. Another Lucas super-strength? He excels at finding the right chef for the right job (let’s agree to ignore the Martin Benn fiasco at Society for the moment). Here, at the Japanese version of Chin Chin, his trump card is Daniel Wilson, who showed some seriously suave food moves at Smith Street’s Huxtable before going off to lead the city’s burger cult at Huxtaburger. Back where he belongs behind the pans, he was never going to stick to the well-worn yakitori-slash-izakaya groove. Th

Marameo

Marameo

Update: We attended this venue in January 2020 and some details may have altered since then.  Restaurants are like real life in time-lapse: a warp-speed universe where five years equates to middle age and ten to sad old dotage. It’s a statement about stiff competition, shortened attention spans and the acute misfortunes of FOMO, but it all combined to make CBD Italian stallion Sarti, after 13 years, ready for the knackery.  Savvy owners Joe Mammone, Marco Tenuta and Michael Badr are guys with runs on the board in old-timer Il Bacaro and newcomers Bar Carolina and Tetto Carolina, and they sure know when to hold `em and when to fold `em. Lesser operators, sensing the heat ebbing from their 13-year-old baby, would have panicked and hit the emergency button marked ‘Italian-American’, but Marameo, nee Sarti, is a much more polished pony. And just like Sarti was to the generation of city professionals who came of age when the coolest thing was to meet for a drink at Meyers Place before kicking on for dinner down at 6 Russell Place, Marameo is destined to be catnip to the corporate army’s junior recruits.  It’s not a place for people still practising their restaurant manners, but the phrase “cheeky Italian”, found somewhat alarmingly on the website, ought to shine some light on the new regime. Sure, it doesn’t indicate the loveliness of the Chris Connell redesign, as cool and considered as the 1967 Alfa Romeo Stradale Prototipo with its soft earthy greys and subtle swatch of peachy

Tulum

Tulum

Update: We attended this venue in August 2017 and some details may have altered since then.  Coskun Uysal wants to make one thing clear: dips and kebabs are more Middle Eastern than Turkish. The Istanbul-born chef who moved here a few years ago and then opened Tulum, his mod-Turkish restaurant in Balaclava, reckons we ought to get our cultural bearings in order. Fair point. And Tulum is just the place to start reorienting ourselves – there are far worse fates than discovering the Turkish nation’s edible vitality from a smart narrow Carlisle Street shopfront made classy with wall sconces, greenery and Moorish tiles in a shade of turquoise you could bathe in. Turkish food may have been reduced to cliché in the Australian imagination, but this is a kitchen bringing the kind of modern Turkish food you’d find in Istanbul’s thumpingly vigorous restaurant scene to Balaclava with a program of pickling, preserving, fermenting and hanging (yoghurt, that is). It’s fresh, pretty, textured and refined. The kind of cuisine that smart chefs of all national stripes are happily doing: filtering the food of their homelands through a modern, borderless prism. You certainly don’t have to have your Ottoman radar switched on to mark the raki-cured kingfish as a very good example of Melbourne’s favourite crudo, for instance. The firm, just-cured pieces of fish encircle a moat of vibrant green dill mayo; nasturtium leaves, dill fronds, red onion and a lick of preserved lemon (too often overbearing,

Cutler and Co

Cutler and Co

Update: We attended this venue in May 2017 and some details may have altered since then.  In the PR world they’d call it a brand refresh. In the cosmetic enhancement world they’d call it a nip and a tuck. In the military world they’d say Cutler & Co has gone in for a surgical strike. Whatever the nomenclature, Andrew McConnell has given his major Gertrude Street address a thorough going-over after eight years, dusting away any cobwebs, polishing the nameplate… and in the process devising a canny way of getting back in the media again. It’s an indictment of our modern age that restaurants now have the equivalent of dog years. An accelerated life cycle means eight years is boringly middle-aged - hence the A-Mac’s decision to call in designer du jour Iva Foschia, who has deployed green marble slabs with abandon; introduced semi-circular leather booths, and knocked windows into the back wall, giving new life to the difficult space at the rear. It looks a million bucks. The best bit: the bar, reprised from days of yore (or at least 2012-ish), which never totally fired, spatially speaking, now has all the necessary accoutrements to succeed, including being wrapped around the open kitchen and basking in its energy. Nor should the siren song of an aperitif bar be ignored – Champagne rests on ice and a Negroni is only a charming waiter away. Melbourne, meet your new favourite snacking spot, where a seafood-centric bar menu offers breaded abalone with tonkatsu sauce sandwiched in the

Vue De Monde

Vue De Monde

Update: We attended this venue in August 2019 and some details may have altered since then.  To adopt its new Australian vernacular, Vue de Monde has more history than you can poke a stick at. The turn-of-the-century Carlton restaurant that announced Westmeadows wunderkind Shannon Bennett to the world. Its grand-statement, slightly awkward sophomore period at Normanby Chambers. And the past eight years perched at the top of the Rialto, where this Melbourne fine dining star has taken the mantra of evolution rather than revolution as it journeys from French-leaning neo-classical purist to a restaurant with its own Aussie-accented voice.  With Bennett now splitting his time between Melbourne, Byron Bay and the MasterChef set, how much of that shift can be attributed to the overlord himself and how much is due to various executive chef lieutenants anointed along the way, such as Mark Briggs, Cory Campbell and most recent incumbent Justin James, remains a matter of conjecture. And conjecture we food boffins will. All that garden-variety diners need to know is that this slick black-on-black dining room is in good hands with the new kid on the block. Hugh Allen is 24, a graduate of various Noma incarnations, and a brilliant fit for the Vue of now.  A meal at Vue de Monde is still dressed in the accoutrements of the Euro gastro-palaces Bennett came of age emulating. A Champagne trolley greets you on arrival; a cheese trolley helps bid adieu. But this classical sandwich contains a mod

Embla

Embla

Update: We attended this venue in March 2019 and some details may have altered since then.  It doesn’t make it easy for a restaurant, even one as universally beloved as Embla, when the owners go and open a not entirely dissimilar restaurant directly above it. Thus it was for Embla last year when little sibling Lesa finally swung open its separate Russell Street door after comically long delays. Like Romulus and Remus, Embla and Lesa aren’t entirely dissimilar. Apart from sharing obscure Norse names relating to fire, they share a woody fit-out that’s stripped back and the opposite of pretentious, a wine list in thrall to the natural clique and a menu that worships at the altar of fire, char and smoke, backed by a fermenting program that puts the Danes to shame. But while Lesa is a place where co-owners, chef Dave Verheul and wine guy Christian McCabe, have deigned to call a restaurant, with the slightly more worked food to show for it, they’re hanging onto Embla’s “wine bar” appellation with an iron grip. Is Embla a wine bar? That’s a quintessentially Melbourne question of existential proportions, up there with “What is the purpose of a Moomba monarch?” and “Will the Demons win the flag this year?”. Anyone wanting to humour their assertion could simply point to a wine list that changes like a chameleon and where low-interventionism is the north star. It’s the kind of list where the words “organic” and “bio-dynamic” are only a sommelier away, but fear not: the strike rate here

News (2)

Sydney's loss is Melbourne's gain as Sepia closes

Sydney's loss is Melbourne's gain as Sepia closes

The bad news for Sydney is that Sepia’s closing. The good news for Melbourne is that Sepia’s Martin Benn and Vicki Wild will be moving south next year to join serial restaurateur Chris Lucas in a new venture. Speculation has been rife for some time that the acclaimed five-star fine diner at the top of the Sydney dining tree would be moving, and possibly changing its focus, with the lease soon to expire on its Sussex Street home.   However, Benn and Wild, who opened their restaurant eight years ago, pulled out a wildcard with the Lucas union, which will see them move to Melbourne ahead of the projected opening in the second half of next year of a venture that has yet to find a name, or a home. “The ball really starts rolling at the end of the year,” says Lucas, founder and owner of The Lucas Group, which operates Melbourne hotspots Chin Chin, Hawker Hall, Baby and Kong and is in the latter stages of opening the ambitious, multi-tiered Japanese restaurant Kisume on Flinders Lane next month. It will also open Chin Chin Sydney in Surry Hills’ 100-year-old Griffiths Teas building in August.  “We’re busily running around looking for the right site. The CBD at this stage is the obvious choice.” The new venture will not simply be Sepia Mark II, although it will be the home of adventurous dining. “One of the things that brought us together is that restaurateurs and chefs are very like minded. I want to keep building amazing restaurants, he wants to keep being creative. Martin, like an

Sydney loses more culinary talent to Melbourne as Sepia closes

Sydney loses more culinary talent to Melbourne as Sepia closes

The bad news for Sydney is that Sepia’s closing. The good news for Melbourne is that Sepia’s Martin Benn and Vicki Wild will be moving south next year to join serial restaurateur Chris Lucas in a new venture. Speculation has been rife for some time that the acclaimed five-star fine diner at the top of the Sydney dining tree would be moving, and possibly changing its focus, with the lease soon to expire on its Sussex Street home.   However, Benn and Wild, who opened their restaurant eight years ago, pulled out a wildcard with the Lucas union, which will see them move to Melbourne ahead of the projected opening in the second half of next year of a venture that has yet to find a name, or a home. “The ball really starts rolling at the end of the year,” says Lucas, founder and owner of The Lucas Group, which operates Melbourne hotspots Chin Chin, Hawker Hall, Baby and Kong and is in the latter stages of opening the ambitious, multi-tiered Japanese restaurant Kisume on Flinders Lane next month. It will also open Chin Chin Sydney in Surry Hills’ 100-year-old Griffiths Teas building in August.  “We’re busily running around looking for the right site. The CBD at this stage is the obvious choice.” The new venture will not simply be Sepia Mark II, although it will be the home of adventurous dining. “One of the things that brought us together is that restaurateurs and chefs are very like minded. I want to keep building amazing restaurants, he wants to keep being creative. Martin, like an