South Wharf progressive dinner… 6 places in 1 night.
South Wharf, this new precinct in central Melbourne is equally if not more isolated than Docklands, and is for now a very quiet place to be at night. “The heritage cargo sheds… [have been] restored to their 1930′s look” (The Age), retaining some of the historic charm spruced up with some modern interpretation. A dozen or more places are open (or opening) up in these sheds, offering a multitude of dining options.
I, along with a few others, was lucky enough to be invited along for this EPIC progressive dinner, visiting six places consecutively. So it is no surprise this will be a rather epic post… sit tight!
[The Boatbuilders Yard]
23 South Wharf Promenade
03 9686 5088
Living in the shell of what used to be a boat-builders shed, this gastro pub opens out to the fabulous river breeze and Melbourne skyline. A few tipples and school prawns simply fried to whet the appetite.
On a separate occasion, MsIHua was able to try out more of the relaxed pub menu >>> see here.
29 South Wharf Promenade
03 9682 6007
Right at the foot of South Wharf Seafarers Bridge, The Bridge – rightly named so – is a pub with dazzling river views serving up unpretentious pub food.
A few sips of wine from their shortlist of carefully selected wines – Leeuwin estate Art series Riesling 2010, Margaret River WA; Amherst Daisy Creek Chardonnay 2010, The Pyrenees – and a few bite sized canapés – Fried gruyere filled olives, Confit duck rillettes – later we were again off to another venue…
33 Dukes Walk
03 9245 9900
Elegantly named “red paper lanterns”, this classy Japanese restaurant takes the traditional izakaya concept and turns it up a notch or two for something truly remarkable.
The Chicken wing dumpling is lightly browned (ahem fried) and filled with a subtle but moreish filling of minced chicken, daikon, peppercorn, orange and mushrooms. In my very subjective opinion and primitive taste preference, I prefer the simplicity of side-street-izakaya-style chicken wing dumplings, where the emphasis was more on the chicken, without the complex subtleties to confuse and distract. Nonetheless this rendition is still up there with the ones I’ve had in Japan.
The next two dishes served up however, did tickle my tastebuds far more. Juicy and caramelised slices of seared wagyu teriyaki sandwiched with king mushroom was a sure hit, with a sprinkle of chilli. A sweet plum wine to match.
Watching Head Chef Kengo Hiromatsu meticulously prepare Hiramasa Namerou with Rice Crackers – was enough to keep everyone at the edge of their seats. This Japanese style tartar with chopped kingfish, brings a kick to the tastebuds with spring onion, moromiso, kizami-wasabi, and olive oil. The rice cracker is no ordinary cracker, it is super thin, crisp and very tasty, albeit a little on the oilier side. Served with a crispy fruity sake.
This was definitely my favourite venue of the night, and enjoyed it so much so I returned not a couple of weeks later. That my dear, will be for a later post…
[The Sharing House]
35 Dukes Walk
03 9245 9800
Like a hoard of sheep, we get shepherded around a wall to our next venue next door.
The whimsical bar-front made of lego, apparently costing “$12,000“, is both a visually enchanting for the child within and a little distracting. Much in line with the décor, head Chef Mark Briggs (ex-Vue de Monde head chef) brings a playful quality to this restaurant serving Modern Australian food to share; cutlery is optional.
Fingers only please for the Rabbit and Cauliflower popcorn. These crunchy bites are coated in parmesan bread crumb, and accompanying garlic aioli. Chickpea fries makes for a healthier alternative to spuds; the ketchup is homemade.
The garlic and cream are a little heavy if scooped on their own, but alongside the toast and white wine steamed Port Arlington mussels, they make for a great grazing dish.
Trout Gravalax – cured with apple vodka, was a cleaner dish on the palate, and Thanh just kept going back for more. A little Pinot gris to wash it down also.
20 Convention Centre Pl
03 9268 7600
The vast expanse of partitioned space gravitates towards a central bar that illuminates with drinking lure. The cuisine by Justin Dingle-Garciyya is one of multi-ethnicity from his various ventures, making a stamp on his own rendition of pub food, with a great list of drinks to match.
Would you like a drink, Sir? Oh, yes please. A pineapple express. I must point out though that the Apple martini (pictured above) was not mine, although I did manage a small sip. Responsible drinking?
A combined 2-on-1 dish was served. I found the double cooked belly of Daylesford pork though coloured with the right flavours, it was rather chewy and seemed to have fallen short with rendering – leaving an endless layer of fat. Sure, it may be the satiety talking, but a little more melting couldn’t hurt. I did however enjoy the Asian-yet-not-Asian shrimp dumpling with a distinct ginger aroma in the Hainan-style dressing.
The accompanying salad of rare seared tuna with char siu oxtail, was far more appetising for me bringing the fresh bite of sashimi with tangy juliennes.
By this time we (of the ones who drank) were heading towards inebriation, and bursting our stomachs with wonderful food. We were actually counting down how many places left, and wondering how many more dishes to go… a sad reality isn’t it?
35 Dukes Walk
03 9682 0566
A passing glance at the exterior poster-plastered walls of our last stop, one could pull it straight out of Brunswick-Street with its distinctly Bohemian feel. The menu is one of Spanish tapas, paella and bocadillos. Unfortunately head chef Josep Espuga would only be showcasing his dessert menu today, not to say that is a negative by any means.
The chocolate filled doughnut balls – Bunuelos de Chocolate – oozes with warm chocolate; whilst the Caramelised brioche pudding (half brioche, half brulee with citrusy notes) is a sugary delight. Both the doughnuts and brioche came with wedges of very-sour-fruit – cumquat and grapefruit respectively – that effortlessly cut down on the sugar hit.
My mind was at odds with the Arandanos, Mascarpone, chocolate blanco, seemingly an odd combination of blueberries, mascarpone, white chocolate and dusted black olive. The Vanilla ice cream with Pedro Ximenez was however, a simple pleasure.
We finished on a warm glowing note, quite literally with the rosy lighting but most definitely because of excess consumption of great food and wine.
Overall, I really enjoyed the venues we visited, and would be excited to recommend South Wharf to all my readers, as there is something for everyone. In fact I have brought along friends for a revisit of my favourites of the night – Akachochin & Bohemian. And believe me, I left feeling utterly satisfied on both occasions.
Whilst things are still being developed in the area, enjoy being able to get a table without too much fuss. But beware, it won’t be long before people hear the news.
[I dined courtesy of Gun Communications and each venue aforementioned]