Carbonara with pancetta and poached egg.
Roger Fowler is expecting a population influx of about 10,000 people at the northern end of South Yarra in the next couple of years as apartment complexes emerge. His research tells him most of the development will occur around the Church Street bridge. Fowler is a South Yarra resident. His children go to school in the area and, after 20 years at the Stokehouse (the first few as chef and 12 as general manager), the time had come to open his own venue. Where more astute than close to home and in an emergent neighbourhood?
NorthSouth Eatery, his venture with chef Ron O’Bryan (ex-Church Street Enoteca), is a narrow, modern space that seats 35 inside and 100 outside. It’s tucked into the base of an apartment complex that’s home to about 1000 retirees and young professionals.
NorthSouth has been open only a couple of weeks, and at this stage is licensed until 9pm, offering breakfast, lunch and early dinner: “And then we’ll see how things go,” says Fowler.
“We didn’t give the place much time to resolve any operating glitches, before arriving on rainy night during Cup weekend, when clearly everyone else was elsewhere. But it gave us a good opportunity to see what this upmarket eatery could become.”
The food is well priced, relatively uncomplicated and pleasantly approachable. The staff was equally amiable, although obviously not rushed. And the short, classy Victorian-based wine list is compiled by Jeremy Shiell, the sommelier and wine buyer at the Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld.
NorthSouth’s menu is executed by Dave Morrison (ex-Carringbush Hotel, Middle Brighton Baths) and overseen by O’Bryan. Morrison was O’Bryan’s sous chef at The Deck and knows his food well. The same dishes, based around three to four ingredients and with an Italian bent, run through lunch and dinner.
There’s a neat list of starters, five entrees and five main courses. A daily specials board lists three to four options and will offer market discoveries and seasonal ingredients. “The kitchen is small and we have limited storage,” says Fowler. “So we’ll use great produce on the specials board as our contacts find it for us, and when it runs out, it runs out.”
A whole baked baby snapper with corn veloute and fine herbs was on the board the night we visited. It was a lovingly crafted dish, the plate-sized fish moist and tender, with a crisp skin and a delicate topping of fresh herbs. The velvety, golden sauce was a delicate binding element for the snapper and the greenery.
The starters list includes oysters, olives a couple of ways and arancini. We chose the fried olives filled with veal. The small, tart olives were filled with a strongly flavoured sliver of tender veal, then coated in breadcrumbs and a scattering of salt before their, quick, hot treatment. A fabulous appetite builder.
A cured-meat platter featuring house-made grissini and excellent pieces of dark, zesty wagyu bresaola, a terrific salami, plus some equally good pieces of capacollo (cured pork neck) and jamon was presented on a wooden board with a dash of hot mustard and a few cornichons (gherkins). A great summer-night sharing dish.
There are a couple of classic dishes on the menu that will have strong appeal for the residential regulars: a calamari entrée, in which the squid is dusted in semolina and tossed through a crisp endive, fennel, almond and parsley salad, is a fresh, bright balance of flavour and crunch; and a carbonara created from a slow-cooked garlic base and flavoured with capacollo and topped with a sous vide-poached egg, is sure to be a stayer.
Desserts run to classics such as an apple-flavoured panna cotta and raspberry crème brulee and are brilliantly executed and elegantly presented.
Young, friendly staff and well-priced minimal-ingredient dishes presented with creativity and flair ensure NorthSouth Eatery will appeal to the broad demographic expected to populate the northern end of South Yarra. Twists on classics and hearty staples such as top-quality steak and chips, plus a considered parochial wine list, will please regular diners as custom builds and also appeal to visitors. Seating for 100 outside is bound the see the footpath full as summer arrives. This is one to watch.
NorthSouth Eatery, 760 Chapel Street, South Yarra
Phone \ 9827 6221
Chef \ Dave Morrison
Prices \ Breakfast $6-$16; entrees $6-$19; mains $23-$28
Open \ Monday-Tuesday 7am-4pm; Wednesday-Friday 7am-9pm; Saturday 9am-9pm, Sunday 9am-4pm
Nothing less than a slick, architect-designed interior will do in South Yarra. And Christo Gillard’s work on NorthSouth Eatery is suitably polished and refined. Gillard is known for his work at Ichi Ni in St Kilda and Society Restaurant in Bourke Street. Here, there’s less flourish than in either of those spaces; instead, it’s a studious combination of sage and black, with informality achieved via blond timber tables, pale flooring and the soothing use of lighting. A series of black-framed windows front the long, narrow interior on one side, while matte-green walls and high windows on the opposite side reflect the light. The galley-style kitchen is open, but tucked by the front door, where few diners are likely to linger. Exterior seating will add a sense of largesse when the weather improves.