Last night we dined at a fabulous restaurant that opened just last week and deserves a lot of attention.
Ideally located in Acland Street, St Kilda, with views down the east side of Luna Park towards the bay - ideal to watch not only the carriages flying around the Scenic Railway roller coaster but also the changing colours as the sun sets - Roxborough Bar and Kitchen offers rustic Mediterranean food, made with produce sourced from Victorian boutique suppliers.
Having successfully brought us Fitzrovia, Paul Jewson and Marco Pugnaloni have opened Roxborough to fill a gap in the market. "I'm so excited to be getting back to the style of food we were creating during my time at London's River Cafe; generous, rustic Mediterranean that is super seasonal with the focus on the ingredients," says Paul. "Marco, Christian (Byrne, head chef) and I are all St Kilda locals and love Acland Street for all its diversity. We have often talked about the type of restaurant we would like which is sadly missing from the area, and Roxborough is the result."
Inside Roxborough - fresh and modern while being empathetic to the host building
Walking into Roxborough, it is fresh and light filled, and very appropriate to its near-the-sea location. Designed by Paul Hecker of Hecker Guthrie Interior Designers, the decor is respectful of the historic St Kilda Army & Navy Club building in which Roxborough is located, retaining empire style friezes and stucco plasterwork, along with white terrazzo, limed American oak and white tile details.
On handing us the menus, our waitress advises us that, in keeping with the Mediterranean tradition, it is designed largely as a sharing menu. The menu has been crafted by head chef and business partner Christian Byrne, whose culinary experience includes renowned seafood restaurants of Long Island, New York, and New England.
Scanning the menu, there are plenty of dishes that appeal. I select pippies and clams with smoked pork hock, broad beans and parsley ($16.50), while my dining companion Dave opts for the roasted baby artichokes with pea salsa, confit shallots, leek and Pecorino Romano ($14.50) for our entrees. For main courses, I choose the twice cooked Milawa half free range chicken diavalo with a spring pea and tarragon chicken jus ($29), while Dave selects the grilled fillet of cobia with piperade Basque, Mornington Peninsula mussels and roast fennel jus ($27). We also order as a side dish the summer English spinach with garlic, chilli and anchovy ($13.50).
Roxborough is also fully licensed, offering a wine list created by Neil Prentice of Moondarra fame that features 50 wines primarily from Europe and Australasia.
While we wait for our meals, we are given some bread and butter - and that sets the standard for the night. The bread is rustic, chewy yet crusty; the butter is REAL butter and has us demanding to know where it is from. King Valley Dairy (formerly the Myrtleford Butter Factory), we are advised. Delicious!
A big plate of pippies and clams is put in front of me, and I can't wait to dive in. It comes complete with a slice of buttery, garlicky toast for mopping up the buttery, garlicky juices from the shellfish. I wasn't sure if I'd like the pork hock with the molluscs, but the combination worked beautifully. The hock - delightful tender flakes of meat - added contrast and interest and a salty element. This dish was an absolute winner.
Pippies and clams with smoked pork hock - knock out dish!
The artichoke dish also had contrasting textures; the softness and sweetness of the confit shallots with the slight crunch of the artichoke. A lovely light summer dish.
Roasted baby artichokes with pea salsa
Moving to the mains, my chicken looked inviting on the plate - moist and succulent, and accompanied by a most generous serve of spring peas. It was as tender as you'd expect from a twice cooked meat - virtually falling off the bone. I loved the complex flavours of this otherwise quite simple, rustic dish.
Twice cooked half free range chicken - melt in the mouth tender
Dave's meal, again, was generous, laced with fish and mussels. The piperade, which is a typical Basque dish prepared with onion, green peppers, and sautÚd tomatoes, was spicy without overwhelming the subtle flavours of the seafood.
Cobia with piperade Basque and mussels
Having eaten our way through two substantial courses each, Dave declared himself incapable of tackling dessert. I chose the lightest dish on the dessert menu: apricot and Aperol mess with crisp meringue and vanilla creme fraiche ($13.50). Chef Paul though, was keen for us to also try the pine nut, pear and almond frangipane tart with mascarpone ($12.00) - and I'm glad we did! We enjoyed both desserts, somehow finding room to polish them both off. The apricot and Aperol mess was indeed light, with its delightful layers of fruit, creme fraiche and little fragments of crispy meringue. But the pine nut tart, oh my, what a dish! If you're a fan of pine nuts, you will love this. I also loved that the pastry had been pushed as far as possible in the baking process without burning, giving it that super short buttery flavour, and an amazing crunch.
Delightful desserts - pine nut tart (front), and apricot and Aperol mess
Overall a five star rating for Roxborough. It didn't miss a beat! The decor, the service and of course the food, were all top notch. Do find time to pop in there over the festive season - I know I'll be back soon. At this stage, walk ins are welcome, but if you want to reserve a table, you can call on 9537 3819.
Roxborough is located at 88 Acland Street, St Kilda, and is easily accessible by public transport from the city via the number 96 tram.
Roxborough is open 12 noon to 10.30pm Sunday to Thursday, and 12 noon to 11.00pm Friday and Saturday. . It will be open all days over the Christmas period except Christmas day.
The images in this article were taken by the writer. They are not to be reproduced in any form without the express permission of WeekendNotes.