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Okay, Balwyn what's happening? You used to be boring, but now there are Chin-Chin-like queues outside Mr Hendrick's Cafe, The Chen an Art Series Hotel opened five minutes up the road and now the glamourous Finch & Jane Luxe Food and Wine Bar is not only drawing in locals, but the radius grows as word gets out.
A bar in Balwyn! This is pretty much a first and is eliciting comments like ' Balwyn of all places' and 'Balwyn is back!'
To understand the exclamations, it is worth noting that Boorondara (which includes areas such as North Balwyn, Camberwell, Canterbury and Glen Iris) has lived under the hatchet of a nearly century old by-law prohibiting pubs and bars. Yes, a dry area. Or as one wit quipped 'what does the word Boroondara mean? -- it means can't get a drink.'
This dry area, was a hangover from the days of Prohibition and the Camberwell Calvinists, although when I say, hangover, they never really had one. So when you understand a little of the history, then having a bar open in Balwyn is like hallelujah!
Jane Gorman the decorator and owner had a long-term dream of opening up a range of luxurious spaces in which friends could enjoy a drink and food in a luxe atmosphere. Here was her chance to make her mark in this growing area where real thought is going into bar interiors.
Her concept is feminine with soft carpets underfoot, chairs covered in royal blue velvet, Nina Campbell's famous luxury wallpaper in silver and blue, gilded mirrors, couches and heaps of decorator cushions. There are intimate eating areas made possible by tumbling silver filaments of beaded curtains looking as if a showgirl will make an entrance at any moment.
The scene is dramatic and enchanting but also very girlie. Just the place to take a date. Although, at the moment, most of Balwyn is putting on their glad rags as now they can finally head out in the evening for a drink.
Going there last night, it was clear that the venture is obviously paying off as the place was full and here was me thinking there was no need to book.
You enter through a huge mansion sized door where you turn the crystal door knob. The decor is a plush surprise. But even more of a surprise is the 9.5m long fire-flame that appears as if it runs along the bar. This is a clever piece of wizardry that is all vapor and mirrors. Another, Jane Gorman touch.
Service was excellent given Jane & Finch has only been open a few weeks. An immediate surprise was the drinks menu. A top-notch selection of beers and wines, but the show-stoppers were the $14 cocktails! It looks like Melbourne's exhorbitant cocktail prices have not yet reached Balwyn. Let's hope they never do.
I ordered a blueberry mojito a wonderful mix of blueberries, rum, mint leaves, lime and soda. It was fresh tasting with lots of mint and the blueberries were bulbous and humongous.
My son had the fresh strawberry Moscow mule, which was equally full of fresh strawberries. But you could also have other favourites such as an old-fashioned, margaritas and so on. I have slipped in the full list below
We ordered a baked brie over this oozed a blackberry compote and the crunchiness of spicy candied pecans in the gorgeous melt was mopped up with crusty bread. There were also perfect little gourmet sliders. While we chose the whisky beef and caramelised onion option, chicken & avocado or eggplant & tomato were other tempting choices. The golden brown crab croquettes were huge and served with Japanese style Kewpie mayo. You can see the full menu, here.
We didn't have dessert, but the Eton mess looked amazing and you can also purchase a box of six luxury Finch & Jane chocolates to have with your coffee. Nice touch.
Finch & Jane is open from 10 am in the morning, so you can also go in there for your morning coffee and lunches. One morning I went in for breakfast and had avocado on GF toast, with cherry tomatoes drizzled with sweet balsamic which is photographed below.
A quote on the menu took my fancy. 'Normal is not something to aspire to, it's something to get away from.- Jodie Foster.' Balwyn is suburban. It's a nice suburb where shopkeepers generally remember your name and strangers open doors for you. But now with the opening of Finch & Jane, it will never quite be average or normal again.
The only way to receive a food bill - Photo Nadine Cresswell-Myatt