When was the last time you visited Colonel Tan's at Revolver Upstairs? With so many new eateries popping up on the Chapel street strip competing for your hard earned dollar, walking along 'the hood' (as my son calls it, now that we call Prahran home) it's quite easy to forget it exists without a 'real' 'on-the-street' presence. All you'll find is a little A-frame sign sitting along the footpath, and only at the time the restaurant is due to open for business. At all other times, unless you knew about it, it wouldn't exist for you. It's all the more inviting, like a little secret society only those in 'the hood' are hugely aware of.
I'm always surprised when I meet friends or talk to strangers (yes, I do talk to strangers on the street if the vibe warrants it) that they don't know of it at all. I'm always quick to promote this restaurant as it's one of my all time personal favourites. The 'vibe' of the place just does something to my artistic bloodstream and gets it pumping, the staff are friendly and the food is just amazing! The soft-shell crab on a papaya salad ($17.50) and the chilli peanuts ($4.50) for me are a must have. The roti with the rendang chicken curry dip ($9.50), to die for. Betel leaf salad ($14.50), a mouthful of pure heaven. Oh go ahead and check out their menu and start salivating. This restaurant holds it's own and more, even with other new popular places popping up along the Chapel street strip.
Equally amazing are the chefs, cooking in a tiny space, right before your eyes, pumping out meals quick smart for such a tiny crew when the place gets busy, and busy it does get.
Thursdays are especially busy days as it's the evening when locals (Prahran dwellers) get mains and entrees half price. How great is that!
Colonel Tan's at 229 Chapel Street, Prahran (03) 9521 5985 are open for dinner from Tuesdays to Fridays, 5pm onwards, but only open for lunch on Fridays from 12noon. If you're planning on a lunchtime meet up with your besties while the kiddies are at school, Friday is all you've got. Once dinner time is over around 11pm on a Friday, the restaurant rolls out and the same space houses a 24hour nightclub for the weekend - Revolver Upstairs. As a multi-arts venue and Melbourne's premier live music venue, exhibition space, Thai restaurant and nightclub, there's a lot happening there.
Colonel Tan's was created by Karen Batson, head chef of renowned inner city gastro-bars Cookie (bar and Thai restaurant) and The Toff in Town (another one of my favourites). Choo Choo's at the Toff again boasts a Thai menu which you can share in an intimate Toff booth. This kitchen almost never sleeps as they play host to your dinner and supper until 3am on weekdays and 5am on the weekends. The menu at all the venues has been described as a little kitsch and playful; the American diner hits Bangkok.
If you're asking the question, 'is that all there is?'. Nope! Aside from Cookie the beer hall, eating house and disco, and The Toff with their private booth stage and carriage style seating, belonging to this group, there's also Boney, a restaurant, bar and concert venue, and Magic Mountain who serve a blend of Australian and Thai food. Where else would you get roti bread with almond butter, grilled banana and condensed milk on a breakfast menu?
For my sake and the sake of lovers of Colonel Tan's, I hope its landscape never changes. There's something magical about the quirky and the familiar housed in heritage style buildings that fits into the vibe that everyone cleaves to on the Chapel street strip in Prahran. It fits in perfectly without being overbearing or a 'just too much' monstrosity and has become beloved to all who have discovered it, so Colonel Tan's, 'please don't take our sunshine away!'
The next time you're in 'the hood', make sure you add it to your 'must eat at' restaurant list. Just make sure you have your calf and leg muscles warmed up to climb all those stairs to get to the restaurant upstairs, where even parts of the broken and chipped walls look artistic and theres plenty decor style to catch your eye. It's worth the climb, however, please note there's no disability access.