It’s the place to be during the warmer months, but will this latest beachside restaurant keep up once the mercury starts to drop?
Beachside dining at Pontoon.
ST KILDA’S Stokehouse has returned in time for summer larks with a much talked about three-pronged approach to food and fun.
There’s foreshore fine dining up top and a fish and chip kiosk to the side, but the biggest footprint is dedicated to Pontoon, the no-bookings “sand-level” bar and eatery for 400 or so punters.
An 18m-long bar dominates the interior, all concrete and brick offset by warming wood and leather, with lots of outdoor seating to watch the sun sink into the bay. Opened late last year, this prime pozzie has quickly resumed its mantle as south side’s hippest beach hangout after the 2014 fire.
But will the crowds still flock once summer rolls up its beach towel?
Service is a loose term here. It’s DIY central, a bit rich given some of the pricing. You order at the bar and pay upfront, fetch cutlery, plates, serviettes and water, and more than likely flag down a waiter to clear your table.
The Med-leaning food can be hit and miss. Four varieties of pizza are laden with quality toppings but on a so-so base, while grilled prawns have a too-heavy hand of chilli. The lamb shoulder is yielding – spike it with two forks and it falls apart – but arrives barely warm.
On the upside, crispy-edged slices of hanger steak are perfectly slathered in a herby hit of chimichurri. The raw kingfish is light and lovely, emboldened with fried capers and a jalapeno vinaigrette, while a similarly zingy smoked chicken salad with toasted chickpeas had me in the kitchen the next night trying to recreate it.
You won’t go thirsty with watermelon martinis, 18 taps for beer, a spirits list as deep as your young waiter’s tan, and that slurp of the summer, frosé, on tap.
Pontoon has the seaside vibes, but risks being a fairweather friend if basic service remains missing at sea.
From top: the lamb shoulder, dining is a stone’s throw from the water, and the grilled eggplant and anchovy pizza.