This Healesville Scandi-Japanese Café Is Our New Favourite Find

By Clare Acheson
13th Sep 2016

Alchemy restaurant healesville
Alchemy restaurant healesville

We pretty much live and breathe food and drink here at The Urban List, which means that even in our downtime, we’re adventuring to far-flung corners of Victoria on the hunt for delicious food finds that we’ll be gushing over for the coming weeks. The latest location on our hit list is Healesville, and little did we know that this Yarra Valley gem is a hotbed of fresh Japanese cuisine, served in a Scandi-inspired warehouse that’s as much about deer antlers as it is chopsticks. We’re talking about Alchemy, an incredible shop-cum-restaurant-cum-sushi-kiosk that’s been shaking up everyone’s favourite wine region.

Alchemy started its life as a bread factory, which was home to an antiques shop when local couple Christiana Pietropaoli and Jannick Zester discovered it up a Healesville laneway. Pairing their love of all things Scandinavian (Jannick is from Denmark) with their passion for fresh, healthy food that makes the most of local ingredients, the pair renovated the venue with the help of their friends in a mere three months, dismantling one of the oldest industrial ovens in Victoria (it used to cook 1,500 loaves of bread a day!) from the inside out, to transform the building into a raw warehouse—filled with design details that are as beautiful as the dishes they are turning out.

If you’re a fan of all things Japanese, you’ll want to lock in a couple of hours at Alchemy so that you can work your way through their mouth-watering menu. House chefs Benno and Tommo have racked up an impressive list of accolades on their resumes, having worked with Jacques Reymond for seven years, and they’ve made it their job to ensure Alchemy’s menu is always on point, giving traditional flavours a contemporary twist.

The sushi and sashimi selection is as good, if not better than some of Melbourne’s top Japanese kitchens, and everything is presented beautifully on marble slabs and stone-fired plates. Better yet, it’s not Nobu prices, which means the sushi and sashimi sharing platter will leave you change from $50.

Our other picks of the bunch are the scallop ceviche, served with coconut, chilli and lime to give it a touch of Thailand, and the pork and cabbage dumplings—which are stuffed to bursting with tender, top-notch pork mince and served with the house ponzu sauce. Luckily, there’s a substantial menu for vegetarian diners too—think tofu steaks served with pickled mushrooms and daikon, mushroom dumplings, and a tasty traditional veggie curry that’s perfect for cold days. And if it’s pushing 40˚ outside, the ginger beer granita with citrus fruits is a sure-fire winner. Tart, tangy and not too sweet, this one is going to go down all too smoothly with an Icelandic Martini.

And perhaps surprisingly, it’s the cocktail menu that had us lingering for a few hours on a sunny Sunday afternoon, working our way through all we could muster. They make their own kombucha on site and, of course, they’ll serve you a classic espresso martini and Four Pillars G&T (they are neighbours, after all), but it was the Welcome To The Jungle—spiced rum, Campari, pineapple and lime, The Gains And Grapes—gin, lemon, red wine and a touch of sweetness—as well as a sake, sochu and watermelon concoction, which came served in a sawn-off sake bottle that had us begging for more.

If you’re travelling for the day and looking to pick up a little something to take home, we’d wholeheartedly recommend dropping into Alchemy’s store—which carries a considered selection of fashion pieces, shoes, accessories, candles and home accessories, all which speak to the venue’s laid-back but oh so good sense of style.

While brands like Innocent Bystander and Giant Steps continue to make waves in this once-sleepy town, it’s the little guys who have really got us re-evaluating our city-dwelling choices. Can things *really* be this good in Healesville? It’s about time you made the trip to discover for yourself. 

Check out more info about Alchemy online. 

Image credit: Michelle Jarni for The Urban List

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