|Foie gras at Meat Market|
Google maps was not much help and so we ended up just walking past the casino, past the exhibition centre and past Polly Woodside to the part where I thought Melbourne actually stopped, and there it was. South Wharf Promenade is made up of a cluster of buildings made from timber and tin by the edge of the Yarra, guaranteed to be idyllic in summer but decidedly breezy in winter.
|Deep fried olives and red wine at The Bridge|
The wind whipping around outside didn’t matter once I headed into The Bridge for a warm welcome from owners Luke McKirdy and Stephen Boyle who were both at the bar. The Bridge is a cavernous space with soaring ceilings and big windows overlooking the river, it felt a little bare on a cold Friday night but in warmer weather the simplicity of the place will work well.
|Scallops on purée at The Bridge|
For the safari style dinner The Bridge was the venue for a quick pre dinner drink from a wine list which Stephen described as “bang for your buck”. The list has a regional focus and there are some great value wines on it, I particularly liked the Jones Road “Junior” pinot noir from the Mornington Peninsula. However The Bridge isn’t just about drinks and I managed to sneak in some of their amazing deep fried olives ($9) (olives wrapped in cheese and deep fried – what could be better?) and a pair of fat, bronzed scallops ($12) resting on a cauliflower and star anise puree. They were seriously high standard bar snacks.
Details: The Bridge, Shed 9 South Wharf Promenade, South Wharf 3006 (Ph 03 9682 6007)
|The dining area at Melbourne Public|
The next stop on our safari dinner was Melbourne Public a pub and restaurant from the Darcy Group which also runs Motel and Precinct Hotel. A raised seating area behind the bar of a bustling pub is perhaps not the most obvious setting for a restaurant delivering modern European cuisine, but that’s what is happening at Melbourne Public. Chef Justin Dingle-Garciyya brings some serious credentials to his cooking having trained at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir in the UK and most recently the swanky Aman resorts in Sri Lanka and India.
|Seared rare tuna|
There’s some very refined and clever dishes on the menu like the seared rare tuna which was sliced thinly and topped with char sui oxtail and a clean, spicy Hainan style dressing. At the same time Justin pleases the crowds with the inclusion of pub classics like parmas and burgers. There’s a decent wine list to accompany the food and I can recommend the Michelton Riesling from the Clare Valley if you are after something crisp and light. It’s a world away from your typical pub.
Details: Melbourne Public, 11 Dukes Walk, South Wharf 3006 (03 9268 7600)
|Kingfish at Akachochin|
All the restaurants we visited at SouthWarf were great but I think my favourite stop of the night was to Akachochin. Named after the red lanterns (akakhochins) that Japanese bar hang to advertise their speciality, the space is sleek and black with a minimalist fit out and off course the odd red lantern here and there. The place to sit is right at the marble sushi counter to see the chefs working away. Although the restaurant hasn’t been open very long it has already established some signature dishes like the Hiramasa Namerou ($15), a Japanese style tartar. Super fresh and pearly kingfish is finely diced and teamed with spring onion, wasabi and sesame seeds then served with a huge puffy cloud of a rice cracker.
|Chicken wing dumpling at Akachochin|
The team at Akachochin expertly matched the dish to a mellow Kamoshibito Kuheiji Kudan no Yamada Junmai Ginjo ($35) sake which didn’t overwhelm the delicate flavour of the fish. Another menu must order is the fried chicken wing ($15) which is used as a dumpling wrapper. It’s the sort of dish that even when you have a napkin you still want to lick your fingers. Akachochin is on my return list for sure
Details: Akachochin, 33 South Wharf Promenade, South Wharf 3006 (03 9245 9900)
Our next stop was the Meat Market. I didn’t immediately love Meat Market when I walked in as I felt the place had a bit of a cold and overtly masculine feel to it although perhaps it was just the huge sculpture of a cow’s skull that hangs on one wall which intimidated me a bit. However once I pulled up a seat at the bar I felt instantly home as I had entered the world of James Wilkinson, a man or two who knows a thing about cooking steak. Wearing a truckers hat that says either “Meat” or “Skipper” on it Wilkinson expertly works the grill, cooking and testing steaks all with his fingers.
|Eye fillet at Meat Market|
To start some silky smooth foie gras and then onto the main event the meat. The special of Wagyu beef had a rich fatty taste to it and was teamed with bone marrow served St John style. The accompanying bitter horseradish cream cut through the meat overload. The squat, fat little eye fillet ($30) was perhaps one of the most perfectly cooked cuts of steak I have eaten with a delicious charred exterior encasing the blush pink meat. For a cut of meat that can be light on flavour, this was as good as it gets.
Details: Meat Market, 53 South Wharf Promenade, South Wharf 3006 (Ph 03 9008 8953)
Damage: Pricey. This is a steak restaurant after all.
|Wagyu steak at Meat Market|
We ended the night at Bohemian, a cozy wood panelled restaurant that looks like the sort of place you might stumble across in Spain or France. Perhaps then it is unsurprising that the head chef here is from Catalonia and you can find dishes like salted octopus and paella on the menu. Having just devoured a steak we limited ourselves to dessert and quickly discovered a new favourite, the Bunuelos de Chocolate ($11). The dessert is a brilliant interpretation of the traditional Spanish dessert of churros with the chocolate and donut combined in hot, light, deep fried balls of chocolate and teamed with a cumquat confit.
|Bohemian’s take on churros|
Details: Bohemian, 35 Dukes Walk, South Wharf. Vic 3006 (Ph 9682 0566) Open Mon – Sat 11am -11pm, Sun: 12 -5
South Wharf Promenade is a bit out of the way but it’s worth the walk for some really interesting restaurants. It will probably be packed out in summer so go now so you can dine safari style like I did and move from restaurant to restaurant, it’s a great way to eat.
Gourmet Chick was invited to review SouthWharf Promenade.