Food and Drink
Posted by Hilary Bush
10. Jul, 2015
If you live “South of the River”, chances are you know the heartbreaking urban legend of the iconic Stokehouse restaurant on St Kilda’s foreshore. Conspiracy theories still surround the fire that razed the famous beach pavilion to the ground, constantly refreshed as Melbourne foodies come together to also eagerly discuss and speculate on the next project to grace the site.
Undeterred by the tragic events of 2014, Frank and Sharon van Haandel (also of Mr Tulk (State Library of Victoria) and Stokehouse Brisbane) have reborn Stokehouse in a chic converted building right in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD. Located off of bustling Collins Street in a Parisian-style laneway, Stokehouse City is inviting and stylish on first appearance. Their red neon sign advertising the entrance is unmissable and characteristic of the van Haandel quirky charm, though only hints of the original Stokehouse remain – enough to know City is a relative, but also it’s own person.
Whilst the exclusive dining experience can be found up the grand central staircase, and is The Place To Be for long business lunches and exquisite evening meals, downstairs has a completely different vibe. Ombre and white tones greet you immediately upon arrival, with dark wood and bottled lighting giving this space a modern and relaxed feel.
We’re ushered into the Cellar (a function space available for groups of up to 60), with exposed bricks, stripped rustic wooden floorboards and vintage flagons lining the walls to complement the theme. Bryce Hughes, venue manager, greets us with a huge smile and a plate of house-made drinks called “Jose Julios”. These fiery jalapeno and tequila shots immediately set the tone for the evening, and the conversation is easily audible and the surroundings refreshing.
Bryce is certainly the host with the most, encouraging us to “make Stoke Bar and City what we want it to be”, and assures the crowd with absolute certainty that should we feel like popping in at 11am for a drink he won’t be judging us. Service however does officially start at 12pm for food and alcohol, and is open until late. Menu items include delectable truffled béchamel and pickle burgers, cod cakes and beetroot risotto. I am absolutely delighted to see that Head Chef Sam Webb has included a deconstructed, modern version of Pavlova on his menu, and even more delighted when I get to sample two (quality assurance, you see). With mandarin and coconut cream, this dessert is a cut above the rest.
However, the ultimate test of any new restaurant is the quick-thinking creativeness of the people in charge. I pose my own test to Bryce – to come up with a Bryce Signature Cocktail by the end of the night. And boy does he deliver. Espresso martini shots fashioned from Café Patron, Grand Marnier and freshly made espresso, finished with a dehydrated orange wedge (ask and you shall receive).
Stokehouse, you truly have been reborn from the ashes in fashionable, modern style.
Stoke Bar And Kitchen
7 Alfred Place, Melbourne
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