Melbourne is a fickle beast. Much-trumpeted restaurant and bar openings are a dime a dozen in this town – as are closures, be they temporary or permanent, or the ushering in of a new head chef – so to make it onto any sort of Hot Openings list you must have done something right. These places have rocked our 2011 world.
243 High Street, Northcote.
243 High Street, Northcote.
Ok, it didn’t open this year, but new-team-at-the-helm Ryan Flaherty and Scott Pickett have elevated this Northcote eatery to new highs and are swiftly building a loyal customer base. The modern Mediterranean food (most prominently Basque-style offerings, as a result of Flaherty’s time at El Bulli and Arzak in San Sebastian) come a la carte or as part of a tasting menu – 3, 5, 7 or 9 courses – with the option to have matching wines. The table service is second to none for a place with such a casual air about it. Go for the degustation – after you’ve been asked about your likes and dislikes, and any allergies, each course comes as a surprise – in a similar vein to Loam but without the price tag.
Eau De Vie Bar
1 Malthouse Lane, CBD
Ifyou are on a mission to hunt out ‘hidden’ Melbourne, this is one to add to your list of ‘let’s see if we can find it’. If you have not seen a photo of the entrance you might end up looking at the two large unmarked wooden doors and slowly convincing yourself that this might be the place you are looking for. But take the chance and push yourself into a world of whisky (in the aptly named Malthouse Lane basement) and experimental cocktails. Old-school gentlemen’s club and intimate hideaway, this place is good at what it does and let’s the drinks speak for themselves. If you really want to splash out – and see some table side theatrics – go for the dining experience with a difference – the cocktail degustation dinner will wow you and your friends.
125 Flinders Lane, CBD
What more can be said of Melbourne’s hottest new restaurant? While many places are trying to stay on-trend by opening anything serving Mexican, this Asian fusion (eek – there, we said it) place has lit Twitter alight and pulls in hundreds of diners willing to wait hours each night (the even more newly opened downstairs bar does make passing the time less painful). Praise must be given to Jess Ho who works the social media arm of the restaurant, which made it into every foodie’s vocabulary before the place even opened its doors. The fit out by Projects of Imagination highlights the casual nature of the cavernous room. Turn up on a Saturday night and expect a wait time of around three hours but for food with this much flavour many are willing to do so. With whispers of Sydney and Brisbane branches on the horizon, Chin Chin will continue making headlines.
248 Swan Street
We’ve queued at Mamasita, chased the Taco Truck across Melbourne and been thoroughly disappointed by Paco’s Tacos, but if this is the year of the Mexican restaurant, recent-opening Fonda is the king of the grilled corn cob topped with queso fresco. Whether you go for peppery chorizo quesadillas, a meaty burrito – such as beef or kangaroo fillet, fat chips with aioli or one of the several flavourful tacos, this place is as close as Melbourne is ever going to get to an authentic Mexican cantina – unpretentious, no cut corners (nice to see someone on the corn tortilla toasting station, as opposed to one establishment that overlooked this crucial step, cough cough) and reasonable prices. Wash it all down with a mandarin or lime soft drink, or a creamy and refreshing Horchata. Well done team!
Any fantastic bars or restaurants you think were overlooked or any that are opening on the horizon that might be eligible for next year?
Sharking for Chips & Drinks 2011 End of Year Awards
Melbourne’s Best Brunch 2011
Melbourne’s Best Bars 2011
Melbourne’s 2011 Hot Openings
Melbourne’s Best Cheap Eats
Melbourne’s Top 5 Dishes of the Year
Melbourne’s Most Anticlimactic 2011
Sharking for Chips & Drinks 2012 Most Anticipated List