Windsor is arguably Melbourne’s hottest destination for international cuisine and funky bars, but why is the suburb so popular with patrons? It’s young, buzzing and exciting, according to Hanoi Hannah’s Simon Blacher.
“I can’t think of another place in Melbourne, other than Flinders Lane, that’s got such a strong restaurant following seven nights a week,” Simon says.
The restaurateur says he lucked out when he launched his Vietnamese restaurant with business partner Nicolas Coulter in 2012.
“In terms of being in the right place at the right time, it was pretty much perfect,” he says. “We were blown away with how well Hanoi Hannah resonated in the area.”
Since 2012, the suburb’s restaurant and bar roster has exploded. Simon and his team have been a huge part of that expansion. After Hanoi, they launched Saigon Sally, Tokyo Tina, Neptune in May and then their latest project, Impala.
- 212 High Street, Windsor
The sophisticated cocktail bar, created with Nick and brothers Dave and Michael Parker from San Telmo, opened last week. Perched above the Mediterranean-inspired Neptune, it’s home to disco tunes, classic cocktails and an impressive whisky list.
It’s not the only project on Simon’s roster. After four-and-a-half years, Saigon Sally is making way for new Thai restaurant BKK, which will open at the end of the month.
Simon and his collaborators are not going anyway anytime soon – instead, they’re cementing their command on Windsor’s culinary scene.
He believes the area will continue to thrive because many of the restaurants in the area have a no-booking policy, which creates a constant flow of people through the streets and in and out of bars and restaurants.
“It makes for a more fluid night for people. Instead of just hitting one restaurant then going home, people put their name down, then hit another bar,” he says. “It means all of these restaurants and bars are levering off each other, which creates a nice synergy.”
As for the area’s widening international cuisine focus, Simon says Windsor must continue to diversify to meet the demands of the young professionals who live and work in the area.
“For a while, it was pretty much just Asian food. But with The Smith re-opening, our Neptune, and Ramblr up the road, all of sudden there’s a bit more scope,” he says.
Here are some of the best venues to check out on a Windsor adventure:
Borsch Vodka & Tears
- 173 Chapel Street
Contemporary Polish nosh plus plenty of vodka options.
- 99 Chapel Street
Modern Japanese (try the gloriously crunchy nori taco), with gorgeous cocktails and a generous saké selection.
- 98 Chapel Street
Inspired by the street food of Singapore and Malaysia, this fun (and very busy) venue is a share-plate specialist.
- 96 Chapel Street
One of Windsor’s worst-kept secrets, this bar is hidden behind Boston Sub. Enjoy amazing cocktails in a little Chapel Street oasis.
- 67 Chapel Street
Kitschy and cool, this ship-themed bar has pizza, cocktails and a bounty of rum options to choose from.
- 78 Chapel Street
Share-plate dishes inspired by Cuban, Caribbean and South American cuisine, complemented by cocktails and rum.
- 180 High Street
Modern Vietnamese with seven types of pho, yummy bowls and lots of tasty, crispy dishes.
- 66a Chapel Street
A modern take on Japanese cuisine, matched with expertly made cocktails – and a karaoke room out the back.
- 212 High Street
Tasty morsels of Mediterranean cuisine and selection of classic and signature cocktails. Try a Neptune’s Negroni to start the night.