Australia’s monthly epicurean glossy bible, Gourmet Traveller, keeps watch on the city’s edgiest new restaurants in its ‘Where to eat in Melbourne right now’ list, where five current favourites are Oter, Ides, Vaporetto, Embla and Anchovy – “some brand new, others more familiar but all absolutely kicking it,” writes Michael Harden.
The head chef at Oter, Florent Gerardin “is in the open kitchen pumping out an exhilarating blend of regional French dishes with a modern twist,” writes Michael Harden. “Some, like superb fish broth served with little toasts topped with rouille and grated Gruyère or the wonderful selection of sweet tarts displayed on a large breadboard on the bar top, play a traditional bat. Others, like cobia wing sitting under sculptural sheets of kohlrabi, or crabmeat mixed with apple and a super-rich macadamia cream, less so. A smart French-leaning wine list with plenty of good stuff by the glass helps bring flexibility to Ôter so it's as easy to come in for a drink and a snack as it is to hunker down to the full hog.”
At Ides, where Peter Gunn is a talented young chef in his first standalone venture, the menu never stays the same, writes Harden. “Gunn takes a freewheeling approach based on what's in the market from day to day. A salty carrot broth might contain octopus and chickpeas one day, pork belly and radishes the next. There could be a ridiculous (and ridiculously good) toasted Gruyère sandwich or a beautifully cooked lamb rump served with a Brussels sprout slaw.”
Vaporetto is “a bustling double-storied bar-restaurant love letter to Venice” with a solid menu of “well-cooked, crowd-pleasing, regionally correct favourites, such as a version of risotto Buranello using rockling and star anise, and a clever take on vitello tonnato using porchetta and clam mayonnaise.”
A trip to Embla, says Gourmet Traveller, is worth it for the roast chicken alone: “a boned (aside from the leg), meticulously sourced half-bird popped into the wood-fired oven with rosemary and cloves of garlic, then served with sauce made from the chicken bones and a lively gremolata … It's a reminder of how very, very good a respected chook can be.” It’s an open-plan space, all dark and woody, the bar segueing into the kitchen where you can grab a ringside seat to watch, says Larissa Dubecki in Time Out. “Head straight to the stracciatella – a soft creamy cheese like shredded burrata guts – which meets fermented fennel and floral chamomile oil and dill for something completely unexpected. There’s raw beef – topside – with beach rocket and radish sitting on a mousse-like ginger cream, all dressed in a funky lemon vinaigrette. Dropping it back a gear to produce-driven simplicity, there are gutsy slices of heirloom tomatoes on a thyme-driven ricotta.”
Anchovy is an unassuming Richmond shopfront “skilfully blending traditional Vietnamese and South East Asian cuisine with modern-classic technique,” says Gourmet Traveller. And go for the pate, advises The Age Good Food Guide: “The buttery pastry shell filled with gingery pork mince and flecks of wood-ear mushroom, amped with pickled fennel and mustard is as much a mission statement as a snack. It's pretty much a written command to sit at the bar, order seven for dinner and regret nothing.”