The pickle-loving, produce-driven restaurant formerly known as the Aylesbury has become a loud and rowdy Spanish tapas boozery where the vermouth and the good times flow free. Start with some Estrella beers at the rooftop bar then hit the red-hued dining room for plates of pickled things (namely the delicate strips of lemony pork belly, and mussels capped with a crunchy breadcrumb migas), tortilla on toast and the sherry-braised pork jowl.
Bomba, 103 Lonsdale St, Melbourne.
Lee Ho Fook
This mod-Chinese Smith Street restaurant and bar has come screaming out of the starting blocks. It’s still too new to review (chef Victor Liong is still tweaking some dishes and the absolute flogging they’ve had from day one means service is still getting on track), but we’re already nominating the candy-coated eggplant; soft-yolked tea-stained eggs and a delicate white-cut chicken salad to be some of the best dishes we’ve had this year. Watch out.
Lee Ho Fook, 92 Smith St, Collingwood.
Sure, there’s a large element of jokiness to this restaurant – it’s got army helmets for light shades; portraits of ladies with the faces of pigs and a disco ball/bomb ornamental feature – but the suckling pig, roasted every damn day (unless they’re doing a whole lamb) is as deadly serious as the potent vials of Balkan fruit liquor (rakija).
Brutale, 18 Corrs Ln, Melbourne.
We’ve waited a long time for something like Uncle (a mod-Vietnamese eat and drinkery) to jazz up this bit of Carlisle Street. Head in for rooftop cocktails, Cavalier beers, and a hell of a bowl of pho – the man making it is Dai Duong from Dandelion in Elwood so expect a pretty damn fragrant iteration of Vietnam’s favourite noodle soup.
Uncle, 188 Carlisle St, St Kilda.
Speaking of awesome noodle soups you should be eating right now, the two local Japophiles making the ramen at this New York-style joint are playing by their own rules and succeeding like bosses. The broth is a really bright and clean Tokyo-style number make with chicken stock and fishy dashi, so you don’t end up feeling like you’ve been sucker punched even when you get the version stacked with charred pork belly an d meaty king brown mushroom tongues. Which is lucky, because you’ll want to assault yourself with a strawberry shake and a slice of caramel pie.
Shop Ramen, 329 Smith St, Collingwood.
Osteria La Passione
At Carmine Constantini’s beautiful Italian restaurant where the service is old school and the produce is all either grown at a nearby farm or smuggled in from the homeland in Constantini’s hand luggage, they’re currently doing dinners each Wednesday featuring beef from Chianina cows (the most delicious of all bovine). Get in while the getting is good for Italian cooking at its best.
Osteria La Passione, 486 Bridge Rd, Richmond.