No less than The Age Good Food Guide says it plainly: “Richmond is the rising star of Melbourne’s dining scene”.
It’s easy to see why this is happening, as the precinct evolves to become very smart, very stylish and responsive to the fact that this is now one of Melbourne’s most desirable places to live and stay. First it was the Vietnamese restaurants in Bridge Road, following the wave of migration which transformed that area. Then it was the cheap and good café, comfortable takeaway, quick meals for locals and visitors as Swan Street shifted up a gear. Now, well, you can find everything from Mexican street-food to full-tilt French cuisine. With choice and convenience for your boutique accommodation at 381 Cremorne top of mind, here’s a few suggestions for when you are looking for a taste-tempting evening meal in and around Cremorne.
Botherambo sounds like an odd name until you realise it’s on the corner of Swan and Botherambo Streets, so not so odd after all. This one is relatively new, opening late 2014, and mixing it with the best of the south-east Asian eateries in the precinct. The building used to house a pizza shop, transformed now into a bar plus bench-style restaurant. Reviews praise its buzzy atmosphere, and sophistication, as well as the food which includes zesty salads and melt-in-the-mouth beef. The menu has foodie-panache.
(Botherambo, 65 Swan Street, (03) 9428 9730; noon -11pm Fri-Sat until 1am)
One of Richmond’s better-known restaurants, Church Street Enoteca, has set the tone for relaxed classy dining for well over a decade. The building, which fronts the footpath, is a renovated welding factory so expect a spacious interior made warm and inviting with a contemporary fitout. The menu is Italian-inspired, featuring house-made gnocchi and risotto, with mains including wagyu rump, duck breast and pork belly. Italian wines are also a feature, but there are taste-tempting locals too. Enoteca, meaning wine store, is a popular way to say restaurant when you want the emphasis to be on fine dining, with wines to match. There’s a deli alongside the restaurant here too.
(Church Street Enoteca, 527 Church Street, (03) 9428 7898; Mon-Fri noon-3pm, Mon-Sat 5pm until late)
Union Dining is a magnet for foodies too, a place that has lots of references to fine European dining, but with the Richmond hallmark of casual elegance. This one is also brilliantly located if you’re staying at 381 Cremorne and looking for a great meal, particularly dinner from Monday to Saturday but you can lunch there from Wednesday to Saturday, and there’s even breakfast served from 8am on the weekend. This lovely restaurant sparkles with good looks and their menu wins accolades constantly. They call it “provincial-style”, which means you can have chicken liver or pork sausage, spatchcock and baked mushrooms, as well as rib eye pork or lamb rump, all served with mouth-watering flair. They churn their own butter and serve it with baguettes baked for them at Tivoli Road Bakery. Attention to detail is their specialty.
(Union Dining, 270 Swan Street, (03) 9428 2988: Mon-Sat from 6pm; Wed to Sun from 12pm; Sat & Sun from 8am)
How about Mexican? Chingon Taqueria aims to remind diners of the family-run street stalls traditionally found in Mexico and they claim to serve the most authentic tacos in Melbourne (reviews seem to agree). They have limited their menu to be sure that everything is special, with six old-style soft corn tortilla tacos, served with char-grilled pork to garlic prawns and honey charcoal chicken. This is hearty gourmet fare. The restaurant is a warm and colourful one, with exposed walls and lots of wood, so there’s plenty of convivial atmosphere. This popular place has a courtyard out back, too, for al fresco indulgence.
(Chingon Cantina y Taqueria, (03) 9429 5695; from 5.30pm 7 days. Cash only)
While we’re thinking about speciality cuisine, you’ll find a good selection of Greek restaurants in Richmond, if that’s your fancy. In the busy stretch of good eateries on Swan Street clustered near the Church Street intersection you’ll find Agapi, which means “love”. This is a friendly place with a pleasant décor and atmosphere, good for group feasting as well as for a cosy meal for two. Traditional moussaka, both beef and vegetarian, braised lamb, cabbage rolls: it’s not going to disappoint your cravings for that Mediterranean flavour. It’s a good place for vegetarian meals too. Superb sweets here of course, from rice pudding to custards and loukoumi.
(Agapi, 262 Swan Street, (03) 9428 8337; from 5pm 7 days)
In a nutshell, “contemporary French dining in a friendly neighbourhood restaurant”. That’s the offer at Noir, which serves beautifully designed, elegantly prepared meals that are both simple and celebratory. Noir has earned a strong reputation since opening in 2011, and keeps its menu updated and seasonal. They have added a second dining room and bar upstairs, expanding to meet demand. They have a menu du jour, because, they say, “we want our customers to use us regularly to cater for both impromptu visits and special events”, a policy that means they aim for good value meals. Entrees, including beef tartare, scallops and foie gras tortellini are around $20, mains, including rabbit pie, duck confit and salmon with prawns are around $40. The menu isn’t timid: you might like to try the walnut-crusted fillet of blue eye with nettle gnocchi and broad beans, for example.
(Noir, 175 Swan Street, (03) 9428 3585; lunch and dinner Tues – Sat)
An interesting place to go for a meal, and very close to your boutique accommodation at 381 Cremorne, Feast of Merit is a social enterprise, which celebrates a Naga culture tradition, from north-east India, where shared wealth means feasting for all. Very quickly very popular since opening in 2014, this is a relaxed place, inexpensive too. There are two “sittings” for evening bookings, from 6pm and then 8pm, so a good option if you’re heading out for a show later in the night and want to eat well without hassle beforehand. Their food is “contemporary Middle-eastern”, which means lots of vegetables and grains, but there’s plenty, too, to suit meat lovers, such as steaks and lamb, chicken and a bbq fish served with yogurt, sesame, lemon and herbs. Very nice atmosphere in this busy and pleasant restaurant.
(Feast of Merit 117 Swan Street (03) 9428 8480: breakfast and lunch 7 days; dinner Tues-Sun)