Like many Melbournians I have happy memories of the “old” Stokehouse before it burnt down. I feel somewhat affectionate towards the old white weatherboard building and in particular remember with fondness one very long boozy lunch there which lasted almost until night time.
So I was keen to check out the rebuilt Stokehouse even if, a few months in, there are a few unfinished parts (unless raw concrete flooring with spray painted marks is the look they are going for with the entrance). The space feels a lot bigger, with a large oval bar when you enter with bottles of spirits dangling from the ceiling and gleaming in the sunlight.
We headed to the balcony for a drink to start while soaking up the one thing that hasn’t changed: that sensational view. Our waitress guesses that I’ll have an Aperol Spritz which shows either her astuteness or my predictability. I’ll put it down to good service.
Inside thick hewn wood panelled walls, floating gauze fabrics and louvered windows give a contemporary feel while not taking away from the palm tree fringed vista. Every table is packed with diners still winding up at 8pm from their lunches, just like I did all those years ago (one particularly raucous table includes Heston Blumenthal and Eddie McGuire – only in Melbourne!).
There’s house made bread to start and crisp shards of toasted flatbread. I like that our waiter tells us “I’ll bring you as much as you want” with a wink. There’s that service with charm again.
We share a plate of thickly sliced Kingfish. It’s super fresh and the fish is left unadorned save for a charred lime to squeeze on top. Cheese sticks with a little pot of whipped creme fraiche to dip them in are incredibly moreish. What’s not to love about fried cheese?
Pancetta wrapped chicken ($38) retains its juiciness but I remember why I don’t usually bother ordering chicken in restaurants. A better bet is going with one of the seafood options. The barramundi ($38) is crisp skinned on top with sweet flesh and a smoky almond puree. It’s divine.
The sides are good: crunchy chips are well seasoned and broccolini is lightly charred giving texture to its vibrancy.
It’s hard to go past the Stokehouse’ all time classic dessert: the bombe ($21). It’s been reworked but is still a winning combination of bronzed meringue, syrupy strawberries and smooth parfait. One to share between two works pretty well.
The food at the Stokehouse isn’t cutting edge but it does offer well executed classic cooking. What people come back for is the service, the celebratory “special occasion” feel to the place and of course that fabulous view. Welcome back to the Stokehouse. Melbourne missed you.
Details: The Stokehouse, 30 Jacka Boulevard, St Kilda (Ph 03 9525 5555)
Kids: There were a few kids here when I visited but I wouldn’t feel comfortable bringing mine here. It’s a bit too fancy. Save your money and take them to Pontoon downstairs for pizza.
Tips: If you want a table with a view book as a party of two. Most of the the window seats are two tops. Book for lunch or an early dinner to make the most of it.
Damage: Budget breaking.