DRINK IT IN

LON­GRAIN Mel­bourne’s up­stairs lit­tle brother proves that OUT­RA­GEOUS GOOD LOOKS and a SMOKY wood-fired grill are some­times ALL YOU NEED to make a BIG IM­PRES­SION, says Leanne Clancey.

Australian Traveller - - Weekends -

SET UP IN THE GENTEEL, north­ern end of Mel­bourne’s Chi­na­town, mod-Thai pioneer Lon­grain has been draw­ing crowds for its big flavours and cock­tail-fu­elled buzz for over a decade now, but a one-level stair climb up to new sib­ling venue Long­song is like en­ter­ing a dif­fer­ent world, where Mel­bourne doesn’t re­ally feel like Mel­bourne any­more – in the best pos­si­ble way. It was one of the most an­tic­i­pated and drawn-out open­ings of 2017, one that saw vet­eran Mel­bourne hospi­tal­ity power cou­ple John and Lisa van Haan­del re­unite with long-term col­lab­o­ra­tor, chef David Moyle – lur­ing him from his post at Ho­bart’s highly re­garded Franklin back to his home state. The project has been in the me­dia and on the cards for what seems like years, so when the ea­gle fi­nally landed in Novem­ber, ex­pec­ta­tions were high. Be­fore we go any­where though, let’s get one thing straight: while the venue might have one of Aus­tralia’s hottest chefs at its helm, Long­song is prin­ci­pally a bar; a bar that also does food – most of which comes via the con­cise bar menu, the rest from a more ex­ten­sive list and served in ‘The Sta­bles’, a 30-seat, jun­gle-print car­peted din­ing area that flanks one side of the vast ware­house-style space. If you’re fond of a tip­ple, Long­song is go­ing to be up there as one of Mel­bourne’s sex­i­est places to in­dulge. De­vised by wine writer, Mike Ben­nie, the bev­er­age of­fer­ing is both in­spired and ap­proach­able, with an ex­ten­sive list of wines by the glass, and an hon­ourably un­pre­dictable rep­re­sen­ta­tion of lo­cal wine­mak­ers, dis­tillers and brew­ers. As at Lon­grain, cock­tails are a fea­ture, many of which – like the Maidenii ver­mouth and lemon thyme-ac­cented spritz – are given an Aussie twist. Di­vided into around eight smaller dishes and five larger dishes, Moyle’s ex­tended menu lends it­self to shar­ing and speaks to his deft­ness in con­jur­ing the essence of an in­gre­di­ent with­out reliance on un­nec­es­sary over-com­pli­ca­tion. The fact that the kitchen man­ages to ex­e­cute this with lit­tle more than a prep sta­tion and a wood-fired grill (no oven, no hot­plates) is highly ad­mirable and in no way a hin­drance to de­li­cious­ness. Speak­ing of wood-fired grills, skew­ers here are a must, with the sim­ply seasoned, charry duck hearts a great case in point for the trans­for­ma­tive pow­ers of smoke. A dry aged steak tartare sings all the right notes – paired with horse­rad­ish crème fraiche, stud­ded with capers and diced cor­ni­chons and topped with crispy salt­bush, it’s a tex­tu­ral de­light and a great ex­am­ple of Moyle’s phi­los­o­phy of less is more. Big­ger dishes, like the bar­be­cued duck come ban­quet style, with greens, condi­ments and flat­bread. The con­fines will surely prove a big mo­ti­va­tor for re­turn vis­its. Fes­tooned with a sea of flickering pa­per lan­tern-style light­ing, the loft-like, 250-ca­pac­ity space fea­tures huge pro­por­tions, ex­posed ceil­ings and orig­i­nal brick flooring from its roots as a circa-1900 horse sta­ble. Vast con­certina win­dows open out on Lit­tle Bourke Street, invit­ing the out­side in and ex­pos­ing the colour of the laneways below and the city lights be­yond in what might just be Mel­bourne’s most blush-in­duc­ingly hand­some venue.

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: NYC ware­house lofts eat your heart out; Flickering pa­per lan­tern-style light­ing sets the mood; Long­song of­fers an ex­ten­sive list of wines by the glass; Wood-fired food comes courtesy of chef David Moyle; Cock­tails are given an...

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