Melbourne’s Best New Restaurants and Bars | May Edition

By Stephen A Russell
12th May 2014

That's right dear Listers, it's that time of the month again. Strap yourselves in for the best new restaurants and bars opened or opening in Melbourne this month!

The top end of town got a preview of Chris Lucas's next big thing, the king of Japanese and Korean BBQ, Kong – still promised for the end of this month (30th to be precise) in the Richmond spot formerly known as Pearl Cafe – when it joined both St Ali and Jimmy Grants in a funky shipping container food quarter popped neatly into the gap at 80 Collins Street, Rue & Co.

Folks can choose between kimchi, souvlaki or a long black or three, all watched over by an enormous mural of beautiful woman daubed on the side of an adjoining building, thanks to street artist RONE. There's a wee bit of cover and gold brollies for those unlucky enough to head down too late. Get in quick, because developers are ready to begin plugging the gap with a glittering new Collins Street office tower by the end of the year.

After teasing us with the Gertrude Street pop-up venue, Andrew McConnell's Supernormal has finally opened its doors on Flinders Lane, though technically housed in the 171 Collins building. Celebrating the flavours of Asia, big groups can plump for a whole pulled Korean BBQ pork shoulder, or go crazy with the dumpling selection that includes Golden Fields' legendary New England lobster roll and pan fried spicy beef bun. A raw bar offers the likes of Pacific oysters and ama ebi prawns, there's a smart wine list and cocktails including the trademark Supernormal Smash, with Tanqueray no. Ten gin, bitters, and the intriguing-sounding 'seasonal syrup.'

Sticking with cocktails, bunker down in the pleasingly dim Kenobi Cocktail Bar, which re-opened its doors on Lonsdale Street last Friday. Park yourself in one of its multi-coloured bucket seats or the raised, brown leather booths and admire the spiffy new interior. We love the Vieux Carre, with High West Rendezvous Rye Whiskey, Martell V.S.O.P, Antica Formula, Benedictine Peychaud and angostura bitters, harking back to 1938, or there's a plethora of whiskey, rum and tequila if you prefer your drinks neat. Soak it all up with citrus and holy basil chicken ribs, crispy baby squid or braised pork belly with soy, ginger and kaffir lime.

Sweet toothed types might want to get themselves down to the latest Cacao Lab in one of the city centre's brand new malls, The Strand. Tucked away on Driver Lane, their white tile walled, little 22-seater showcases a contemporary twist on the classic cream and choc combo heaven otherwise known as the éclair. We've sampled the goods ourselves and, trust us, they're worth a visit.

If health food is more your thing, thriving paelo outfit Thr1ve is staking a claim in the newly minted Emporium. Dishing up big bowls of greenie goodness, the idea's simple – choose a base like brown rice, leafy greens or sweet potato and cauliflower mash, top-load with char-grilled chicken, shredded pork, pulled beef or salmon (or extra greens for vegos) then add bits and pieces to your healthy heart's desire, like boiled eggs, smashed avo or roasted broccoli with almonds and chilli. It's quick, easy, superfood to go.

Brunswick Street's The Rum Diary Bar has giving its courtyard mezannine space a makeover, creating a Caribbean smoke and grill made from welded oil drums to help wash down the vast text book's worth of rum on offer. Former Rockpool chef Xavier Mercader will be working the grill.

Elwood has a great new cafe in Ormond Road's Combi, with glass jars full of goodness like the organic acai bowl chock full of yum like banana and blueberries, coconut flakes and caramelised buckinis, or handmade granola with toasted almond and walnuts and lashings of honey. They make their own nut mylk from activated almonds and there's a great vegan toasted sandwich with avocado and seasonal veggies, plus revolving soups to warm those wintry bones.

The brains behind Einstein's 251 have opened Einstein's Relative in South Yarra, offering a few of the 251 favourites along with a list of impressive new dishes. Order the Relative Baked Beans with poached eggs and dukkah for some serious brain food.

Also new on the cafe scene is Hello Sailor in Hawthorn. WA born owners Chris and Wade have enlisted Eades & Bergman to create a light and airy space with beautiful copper accents, and a menu supporting local, ethical suppliers – think Jonesy's milk, Seven Seeds coffee and bread from Port Melbourne's Noisette.

Finally, Golden Fields is no more, giving way for the city's aforementioned Supernormal. In its old home on Fitzroy Street is Luxembourg Bar & Bistro, St Kilda's newest wine bar with a distinctly European feel and a more relaxed outlook on life.

And just in case you missed them, last month also saw the arrival of Windsor's Melt Pizza – dishing up super fresh, super thin Napoli-style pizzas, Kid Boston's takeaway breakaway Boston Sub (complete with hidden bar) and Asian restaurant Susie Wong, all on Chapel Street. The first Northside Meatball & Wine Bar opened its doors on Smith Street, Collingwood, a new Fonda arrived on Flinders Lane in the city and Tres bar opened on Richmond's Bridge Road, complete with Mexican inspired tapas. We're also gagging to try out the whiskey selection at The Noble Experiment, a US prohibition-themed bar and restaurant that's cropped up in Collingwood.

Image credit: Palavra de Melinda.

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