Adding to the ever-growing list of classy restaurants that are cropping up in Richmond of late is Union Dining. It’s taken over the site of Laikon, the former Greek restaurant on Swan Street. The transformation of the heritage listed building (which, incidentally, is named Union House) feels quite Italian, if only due to the similar decor and style it shares (sans tablecloths) with another great Richmond restaurant, Church Street Enoteca.
The restaurant, or “provincial European dining experience with contemporary Melbourne class”, is headed up by Adam Cash – restaurant manager, formerly of Cutler & Co and Ezard, and Nicky Reimer – the head chef, formerly of Melbourne Wine Room.
You know how you sometimes hear about a cool new restaurant, really like the sound of it, and vow to go there soon only to realize 5 years and many broken dinner promises later that you still haven’t been?
So what happens when this place you have been meaning to eat at turns out to be one of the best dining options in town? Martin Boetz’s Longrain, Melbourne (the sister restaurant to the Sydney flagship) was that place for us.
From the extremely efficient service, the sexy dining room, the brilliant cocktails, to the sublime Thai food (Martin is David Thompson’s protoge, so you wouldn’t expect anything less), we can’t think of anything we don’t like about this place.
Over the past five or so years we’ve eaten at David’s, the Shanghainese restaurant tucked down Cecil Place (off Chapel Street, Prahran) more times than we can remember. Aside from the one Saturday lunch that we were unable to be seated for Yum Cha, the story has always been the same – consistently excellent food, great service, and some of the freshest, tastiest, and most reasonably priced Yum Cha around.
We’ve had Yum Cha lunches at David’s a lot more than dinners, but that’s not to say we prefer one to the other. Dinner is a much different experience to the trolley-less Yum Cha – the lights are turned down, the menus expand, and a small dish of their house made and very tasty Spiced Peanuts is placed on each table.
How many local pizza chains do you know of that have Aesop hand soap and hand balm in the toilets, and an apiary on the roof? None? I thought as much!
Located in Greville Street, Prahran (the older, original restaurant that was started by Supermaxi‘s Rita Macali is in Gertrude Street, Fitzroy), Ladro has quite a funky fitout. White tiles adorn the walls, which doubles as the drinks / food specials board, on which the “Arrosto” of the day (roast from the wood oven) and the Beer of the Day, amongst other things, are scribbled on.
We started our third trip to Ladro with two of the aforementioned beers of the day, Forst Lager ($8 each). We have never tried / seen Forst before, and I think Ritsy got a taste for them, so we’re going to have to find a retail supplier pronto!
We were tossing up whether to brave the rainy Melbourne weather on Saturday night to head out and try a new Japanese restaurant. After deliberating and procrastinating for about an hour, we decided to make a last minute dash to the train station and see if we could score a table at a place we have only ever heard good things about.
Wet, cold and hungry, a little after 5:30pm, we found the hidden glass doorway down some nondescript stairs on Russell Street. We pushed aside the black curtain behind the door, and headed down another flight of stairs. Japanese chefs and waitstaff flanked the long, black, narrow bar / kitchen / dining space. Welcome to Izakaya Den.
With a handful of diners already seated (tables of two at the bar, tables of 4 against the outer wall), and the projectors streaming a mix of pretty colours and specials on the wall, we took our seats at the bar-slash-table. Our menus came quickly – rolled up in a scroll with Japanese writing on the outside – as did two glasses of water in amazingly cute Japanese glasses.
Almost overnight, in the space where the once excellent coffee focused cafe Flavours of Lakhoum used to be, a suave new restaurant called Noir appeared. With virtually no media attention at all, hardly any reviews on the web, and only about 3 weeks of being in operation, it’s 35 – 40 seats have pretty much been booked solid all weekend. Quite impressive – such is the power of Word Of Mouth.
Peter Roddy, who has worked at many restaurants across the globe, including Gordon Ramsay’s ill-fated Amaryllis in Dublin, and Michael Roux Jr’s Le Gavroche in London, is the Chef and owner. He has created a nice little space, the black (noir) walls and polished wooden tables giving it a classy, distinctly Richmond kind of feel.
Ezard is one of those restaurants that just “has it”. It’s sexy, it’s romantic, and – most importantly – it serves damn good food. It’s no wonder Ritsy chose to come here for her birthday dinner (Well, actually, she chose George Calombaris’s The Press Club for something different, but they were booked out for Saturday nights until August…)
Located down a small flight of stairs at The Adelphi hotel on Flinders Lane, past the not-so-private room (glass and see through curtains means you are eating there to be seen) is the long and narrow restaurant space. Tables of two are gently separated along the banquet-chair lined wall with small, rectangular cushions that divide the territory between you and your next-door diner.
Getting a table at Movida pre Movida Next Door and Movida Aqui (see our review here) used to be almost impossible. I remember that every occasion Ritsy and I attempted to get in for (midweek, weekend, it didn’t seem to matter), they would be booked out.
So, when I picked up the phone a month in advance to made a booking for our third wedding anniversary (on a Tuesday night in March), I didn’t exactly have high hopes of being successful. I almost fell off my chair when they said “no problem, see you then”.
As we walked up Hosier Lane, past the already full MoVida Next Door (it was 6:15pm!), we saw the man himself, Frank Camorra, working away in his chef whites. He was still there as we left at about 8pm – it’s always nice to see the “big name chefs” actually working in their kitchens.
As previously mentioned, it was Donny’s 30th Birthday towards the start of January, so what better way to celebrate than with the 8 course tasting menu with matched wines at Ben Shewry’s Attica!
We were lucky enough to decide we wanted to eat there the same week the restaurant started accepting bookings for the New Year (although as it turned out, there were a couple of empty tables on the Friday night that we were there…) and were quite excited to see how the standard menu compared to the Tuesday night Chefs table.
I spent some of the afternoon worrying that something had gone wrong with our booking as I never received a confirmation call like you do from most restaurants, but figured as they took my credit card details at the time of booking everything should be ok – and ok it was – phew!
Early last year, Robert Wong (our favourite Maitre d’ ever!) told us that he and Alex Tseng were selling their share of Bamboo House, the wonderful Northern Chinese restaurant in Little Bourke Street.
As sad as it made us to hear that news, we were hopeful that our favourite Chinese restaurant (yes, Flower Drum is fantastic, but it’s a special occasion place!) wouldn’t lose the two things that make it so great – the service and the food.
Robert sets an exceptionally hard act to follow – after about a year of eating there once every couple of months, he started to recognize my voice over the phone when I called up to make a booking – and then say my last name as he was writing down our booking (at our “usual” table) without me even having to mention it.