Melbourne dining bounces back in 2021
Old friends reimagined, second chances, fresh faces and a new kleine schwester to an iconic German eatery are all encouraging signs that Melbourne’s food scene has well and truly begun to bounce back after what was an extremely difficult year for the local hospitality industry – and the even better news is that it’s more culturally diverse and creative than ever. Here’s a rundown of just some of the delicious eats on offer.
Modern Israeli restaurant Golda launches (again)
A true lockdown survival story, modern Israeli restaurant Golda has finally and fully launched. Having briefly opened in June last year, Prahran’s Golda had only a few days of trading before having to close again. Now with Melbourne reawakened, the restaurant has reopened its doors permanently with a new à la carte menu designed for sharing that celebrates the vast and exciting culinary influences of chef Rotem Papo’s native Israel.
Mezze dishes include rockling samboosak – a filled pastry served with fermented chilli and cucumber yoghurt; kashkaval and spinach cigar with olives and black chilli; finely shaved kohlrabi skewer al ha’esh with preserved navel oranges and pine nuts; and Israeli beef carpaccio with black tahini, Lebanese cucumber and date molasses.
Larger dishes include wild barramundi with chickpeas, spinach, amba and coconut sauce; brisket Reuben style with house-made sauerkraut, Goldstar beer and pickled chillies; and charcoal grilled savoy cabbage with labaneh, ruby grapefruit and toasted almonds
Brunch is also available at Golda, and the Israeli breakfast is true to the Tel Avivian style – eggs your way, served with a selection of small dishes that include Israeli salad, labaneh, marinated olives, tahini, harissa, tuna salad and granola with yoghurt. Also featured is shakshuka (Rotem’s family recipe) with spiced capsicum and tomato sauce served with tahini, Israeli salad and bread; and challah French toast with an orange reduction, cinnamon Chantilly and seasonal fruit.
A new urban oasis arrives in Melbourne’s north
From the team behind The East Pantry and Parkstone comes a new cafe oasis in Melbourne’s north. Placed in the bustling Essendon Fields business and community precinct, Friction is a light-filled, modern eatery nailing the winning mix of top-notch customer service and quality cuisine, where local ingredients are at the forefront.
Paired with an unrelenting philosophy to stick to the basics and do them well, Friction is steadfast in its commitment to champion locally-sourced ingredients. Everything is made in-house, from the BBQ sauce to the vegan almond feta. For traditionalists, the menu is loaded with brunch staples including smashed avo or corn and zucchini fritters, or try Friction’s signature chilli scramble, topped with bacon, spring onion, parmesan and parsley.
Come lunch, try the beef rib burger – slow cooked on the bone and packed with pickles, jalapeños and a house-made BBQ sauce. The menu also features halal, vegetarian and vegan options, including a falafel bowl and pulled jackfruit tacos. There are also plenty of grab-and-go options, making the eatery the ideal pit-stop for busy office workers.
Friction is also a welcome haven for coffee lovers, serving only the best beans from iconic Melbourne roastery St. Ali. You’ll also find a colourful array of healthy smoothies, including the Pink Panther, made with dragon fruit, pineapple, passionfruit and coconut water
For more information, head to frictionessendon.com.au
Iconic German street food at South Melbourne Market
Get your fill of Oktoberfest treats all year round at Melbourne’s newest German street food venue, Little Hof. We’re talking crackling pork knuckle on the rotisserie, sizzling German sausages on the BBQ and bretzels fresh out of the oven. Situated in the heart of one of the city’s most important food markets, South Melbourne Market, Little Hof is set to put German food on the map by creating an authentic, European food experience.
Little Hof is the latest venue from the team behind Hofbrauhaus and The Hof. Executive Chef Sunny Gilbert achieves authentic German flavours by combining traditional recipes with local ingredients and those imported from Germany. The result is a selection of heart-warming, homey dishes that have never been seen in the Melbourne street food scene.
The menu focuses on cult German specialities – all adapted to a more accessible, street food format. For a classic German street food experience, the Currywurst is one to note – featuring a traditional bratwurst topped with a tomato-based curry sauce. Little Hof is also home to the city’s best bretzels (not pretzels), baked fresh each morning.
For more information, head to littlehof.com
South Yarra bistro a local favourite in the making
Newly opened Vesper bistro and bar features a menu inspired by the relaxed elegance and gentle warmth of the Mediterranean islands, with Chef Francesco Castellana developing a seafood-led menu of classic regional flavours.
Castellana has carefully selected exceptional locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients to create flavours that take guests on a journey from the Cote D’Azur to the Balearic and Greek Islands. Diners can expect dishes such as chilled almond gazpacho with olive oil poached mackerel; mussels escabeche served with tarragon and black garlic fougasse; Sardinian fregola with saffron braised abalone and pecorino cheese; and crispy red mullet with potato and caper puree and preserved lemon salmoriglio.
Originally from Bari, Italy, Castellana’s experience is firmly planted in the world of fine dining, with experience including New York’s Per Se, and Melbourne’s Vue de Monde. Now leading the culinary direction and team at Vesper, his dishes combine the authenticity of traditional bistro-style flavours with a focus on purity, balance and precision.
Bookings can be made at vesperbistroandbar.com.au or by phone on (03) 9038 8088.
Richmond local reinvents itself as a global fusion diner
Many Victorian hospitality venues are preparing for an uncertain future as JobKeeper is set to end in March. Not so at Mr Joe, with the Richmond venue utilising the lockdown period to reinvent itself as a world-class establishment – serving a selection of visually stunning global-fusion dishes that raise the bar for bottomless dining experiences in Melbourne.
Mr Joe, previously called Mr Joe All Day, has been known predominantly for its Japanese-inspired cuisine. As lockdown halted business for many venues, the team at Mr Joe used the time to rethink its menu in favour of a trendier, more elevated dining experience that takes on a global menu. The new, refined menu draws inspiration from a number of regions, cuisines and ingredients to create the ultimate fusion of tastes and experiences for guests.
Head Chef Martin Sun has created a menu that showcases the diversity of Melbourne culture. While many venues consolidate their menu to a single cuisine, Sun has created synergies between dishes from all corners of the world – introducing unexpected ingredients such as mousseline cream and saikyo miso with well-known dishes.
The new menu features a selection of “snacks” that can be adapted to suit any sized group. Favourites such as the signature pumpkin tortellini remain, combining ingredients such as pumpkin cream, mushroom fricassee and yuzu pressed cucumber. For entrees, the team has introduced two new dishes, including crispy Goulburn Valley pork belly served with umeboshi foam, fennel and caramelised apple; as well grilled salmon – a texturally exciting dish completed with mousseline cream, finger lime and buttered macadamias.
The new bottomless dining experience is available for $65pp on Saturdays. Bookings can be made at mrjoe.com.au or by phone on (03) 7013 0301.