When news of Academy Kitchen and Bar dropped into our inbox, we were chomping at the bit to get to the Richmond venue. The latest project by Will Manning of Toorak’s Townhouse (who cut his culinary teeth at London’s Smiths of Smithfield and Michelin-starred restaurants La Trompette and Foliage), Academy brings together low-key bar vibes and high-quality cooking under one roof on Bridge Road.
“The aim is to have a place that’s comfortable and inviting, social and accessible to all,” Manning told us - and taking a seat by the open street-side window on a warm spring evening, we can definitely say that he’s achieved those goals. Situated in what used to be a run of the mill café, the recently renovated space is humble, but stylish. Bare brick and modest décor details make for a bar-eatery that invites you in for a drink, and then sits you down for three or four courses and the rest of that bottle of delicious local wine.
Academy Bar and Kitchen’s menu centres around fresh, local produce and walks the fine line between luxe comfort food and fine dining fare - albeit the kind that that actually fills you up. The menu varies from twists on Americana influenced fare —think jalapeno mac’n’cheese fritters, fried chicken with apple slaw, and a version of a lobster roll that uses locally caught yabbies instead—and more refined mains, which include a roast lamb shoulde, and a hearty steak served with confit potatoes. Whether you’re in for a light bite or have a hunger to satisfy, you certainly won’t be disappointed.
If you’re a fan of seafood, the crispy skin snapper with battered mussels, puffed rice and pumpkin is mouth-watering; not too crispy, not too pumpkin-sweet, and perfectly garnished. Looking for a sharing plate? We could literally eat the duck liver parfait with a spoon (uh, we kinda did when they weren’t looking…)
Like any self-respecting Melbourne restaurant, there’s a weekend brunch menu that covers the classics, and some new additions too. If you’re looking for a breakfast treat, the Brioche Benedict is hard to beat - avo on toast gets a native twist with wattle and corn fritters instead of the usual sourdough - while coconut rice topped with mango and candied citrus gives a nod to Victoria Street’s Asian influence.
As for desserts? We’re big kids at heart, so the strawberry shortcake sundae was a massive hit. This dish is the quintessential sweet treat, complete with a cherry on top.
Academy Bar and Kitchen’s petite bar (and bartender who, as an alumni of Whisky and Alement, certainly knows her stuff) is one of its biggest assets. Whether it’s lavender and sparkling wine spritzers, or something a little harder that you’re after, it’s the sort of place where you’ll always find something new, expertly mixed, and all too drinkable. And now that we know they’re growing their boutique spirit collection, bottle by bottle, week by week, it’s the sort of place we’ll be back to in the very near future.
Richmond’s food scene just keeps getting better and better, and much like its neighbouring company—Anchovy, Botherambo and Feast of Merit—Academy Bar And Kitchen is setting the bar high without the pomp and circumstance. Make your next date with a cocktail here, and we can guarantee you’ll stay for more than just a thirst-quenching drink.
Want the location, opening hours, and all the details? Find Academy Bar and Kitchen on The Directory!
Image credit: Gareth Sobey