Adam Wilkinson, formerly of Armadale’s Woodstock and Prahran’s Greville Street highlight St Edmonds, sees himself as something of a cheeky chappie, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that the hospo stalwart’s new outfit is dubbed after the mischievous comic book character Denis the Menace.
Taking over a former Cremorne warehouse, the 100-seater cafe will be the new home for ex-St Edmonds chef Simon Neale and barista Damon Glover, encouraging them to play around with the concept. “It’s an adults play on kids’ life,” Wilkinson says. “It’s very jovial. We’re having a lot of fun in the space.”
A good mate of Joost Bakker’s, Wilkinson has also fully embraced the sustainable and ethical message, as demonstrated by silo and the sadly council-closed Brothl. “He had some great ideas,” Wilkinson says. “I know before I started changing my own ways, I used to think ‘what’s my small input going to do?’ But it does all help.”
To that end, Denis the Menace’s warehouse conversion process, designed by Duckbuild architect Simon Cookes, included pulling out roughly half of the roof and putting in enormous skylights to allow the “kitchen forest” below to prosper. That includes mature, three-metre high kumquat and lemon trees running along one side of the space. There will also by worm farms to feed a small chilli plantation indoors.
The new cafe’s façade will be covered in basil and oregano, with punters encouraged to use scissors and tongs to cut some to take away in brown bags provided. “If you’re on the way home and you forgot to go to the supermarket, you can swing past and help yourself,” Wilkinson says.
Neale’s menu will include ocean trout poached in coconut curry with chilli, sweet basil, mint, kaffir lime and brown rice. There will also be a Japanese-style omelette with spanner crab and a seaweed salad stuffed with mung bean shoots, alfalfa and drizzled in miso sauce.
Wilkinson says roughly 80 per cent of the menu at Denis the Menace will be healthy superfood style stuff, with the other 20 per cent given over to naughtier fare. “The health food movement is really strong in Melbourne, with people are finding a lot more comfort in eating well and clean, but there’s still room for naughty hangover dishes like a Reuben sandwich, a burger and a Benedict,” he says. “I know in my own diet it’s about the same percentage. I have a spoil night on a Sunday with a pizza and a few beers.”
Seven Seeds will be supplying Glover with the beans. “They’re supporting us in a massive way, which has been great,” Wilkinson adds.
He’s really happy with the look Cooke has come up with for Denis the Menace. The pair are old mates and Wilkinson is always amazed when he visits the architect’s house and sees how he uses unusual materials in unexpected ways. “Simon’s an environmental warrior himself, all about food, good times, environment and design. He’s also a bit cheeky like me, so we’ve had fun doing it.”
Denis the Menace will open at 106-108 Chestnut Street, Cremorne in mid-June 2015...stay tuned for updates!
Image Credit: Sabine Legrand