Where Melbourne - - Dining Reviews - BY PETER MCBREARTY

MEL­BOURNE’S REAL SOUL ar­guably re­sides just as much in its pop­u­lar in­ner sub­urbs as in the city. One area that has swiftly gained its own place along­side other well-known precincts is Richmond. The area has mor­phed into a con­tin­u­ally evolv­ing des­ti­na­tion of­fer­ing an eclec­tic range of bars, cafes and restau­rants, and one venue which per­fectly en­cap­su­lates the unique char­ac­ter­is­tics of this for­merly work­ing-class area is Ladyboy Din­ing & Bar.

Both the ex­te­rior and in­te­rior of Ladyboy are vi­brantly colour­ful, and the street side win­dows open fully to al­low din­ers the sen­sa­tion of din­ing in a street café. Sim­i­larly, colour­ful and ex­otic paint­ings adorn the walls, with a large benev­o­lent and well fed Bud­dha gaz­ing down upon din­ers in one sec­tion of the restau­rant, a gi­ant crab over­look­ing an­other, and an ar­ray of brightly coloured para­sols hang from the roof. At the rear of the restau­rant is a leafy out­side gar­den area, ideal for re­laxed din­ing on a balmy sum­mer evening, and over the kitchen is writ­ten the neon mantra “rock out with your wok out”, which gives a laid-back at­mos­phere.

Ladyboy’s menu is di­vided be­tween smaller and larger dishes, with many lend­ing them­selves well to shar­ing; al­low­ing din­ers to more fully ex­pe­ri­ence the ar­ray of tastes on offer. Beers from Thai­land and Laos fea­ture along­side lo­cal brews, and the cock­tail list is ori­ented to­ward fresh and cit­rus flavours, per­fectly at­tuned to the ro­bust flavours on offer. For many, a cold bot­tle of Thai Singha beer could prove to be the per­fect com­pan­ion for the ten­der salt and pep­per squid with fresh herbs, chilli, sweet soy and gin­ger, while the soft shell crab slid­ers with ap­ple slaw are def­i­nitely tempt­ing enough to con­sider or­der­ing a sec­ond serve. The pop­u­lar Thai Ce­viche, con­sists of house cured salmon, roe, green namjim and co­conut foam, and an­other of the smaller dishes par­tic­u­larly well suited to a cold Thai beer chaser is the lamb ribs with a Mekhong and red curry glaze, with the suc­cu­lent meat fall­ing eas­ily from the bone.

Din­ers are well ad­vised though to take care not to fill up en­tirely on the smaller dishes, as the main courses at Ladyboy are well worth sav­ing a lit­tle space for. One favourite is the Pe­nang Curry, with a four-hour slow braised Great South­ern Beef Rib, ar­riv­ing in a spicy sauce with Thai egg­plant and herbs, mak­ing a side of Roti al­most manda­tory to soak up the de­li­cious sauce. Any­one fa­mil­iar with Thai cui­sine may find it hard to go past the Pad Thai with rice noo­dles, egg, Chi­nese chives, tofu, bean sprouts and cashews (which can be fur­ther en­hanced by adding chicken or prawns), a steamed bar­ra­mundi fil­let is served with sweet soy, gin­ger, baby bok choy, Enoki mush­rooms and herbs, and the twice cooked pork belly with chilli jam, bok choy, snow peas, broc­col­ini and kaf­fir lime leaves is an­other dish pro­vid­ing a sat­is­fy­ingly com­plex over­lay of flavours. Side dishes are rel­a­tively sim­ple, and con­sist of ei­ther Jas­mine or co­conut rice, and also Asian greens with gar­lic and oyster sauce. Co­conut fea­tures promi­nently in the desserts on offer, with co­conut ice-cream served with kaf­fir lime tof­fee, a co­conut and pan­dan bombe Alaska, and the smoked co­conut cheese­cake with an Oreo crust and Per­sian fairy floss ar­rives in truly im­pres­sive style un­der a smoke-filled cover­ing, which is only lifted away as it is brought to the ta­ble.

Ladyboy is a din­ing venue which pro­vides a com­bi­na­tion of highly en­joy­able food and cock­tails, cheer­ful staff and a colour­ful and re­laxed din­ing en­vi­ron­ment. It also has a very ap­peal­ing ir­rev­er­ence about it, which lends it­self to en­sur­ing din­ers en­joy their over­all ex­pe­ri­ence, whether they drop in for a cock­tail or two with friends dur­ing the early evening happy hour, or pre­fer to stay a lit­tle longer to in­dulge in the fra­grant dishes on offer. This is a venue which could never be ac­cused of be­ing bor­ing or tak­ing it­self too se­ri­ously, and goes a long way to­ward ex­plain­ing the ever-in­creas­ing pop­u­lar­ity of Richmond as a des­ti­na­tion for lo­cals and visi­tors to Mel­bourne.

Ladyboy Din­ing & Bar, 394 Bridge Road, Richmond. 9421 3206. la­dy­boy­din­


■ LUCKY CHAN. Chi­nese. Lucky Chan of­fers guests au­then­tic Can­tonese cui­sine, spe­cial­is­ing in sus­tain­ably farmed live seafood, as well as of­fer­ing the choice of à la carte. Sig­na­ture dishes in­clude the sauteed scal­lops and king prawns with im­pe­rial sauce, but you may also be tempted to choose a lob­ster or large crab from their live seafood tanks. Their won­der­ful food is beau­ti­fully com­ple­mented by an ex­ten­sive list of qual­ity Aus­tralian and Ori­en­tal wines.

The River­side at Crown, 8 White­man Street, South­bank. Lunch Mon–fri 11am–3pm, Sat–sun 11am–4pm, din­ner Sun–thu 6pm–11pm, Fri–sat 6pm–12am. 9696 3966. luck­y­


HAMER HALL. Ja­panese. Saké serves a renowned mix of mod­ern and classic dishes with a dis­tinct lo­cal flavour. Flow­ing with the sea­sons the menu utilises the finestqual­ity pro­duce avail­able. Lo­cated in the re­vi­talised Hamer Hall at Arts Cen­tre Mel­bourne and over­look­ing the breath­tak­ing Yarra River and CBD, this venue is set over two lev­els in­clud­ing an out­door din­ing area on the river­front.

Hamer Hall, Arts Cen­tre Mel­bourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Mel­bourne. Lunch Mon–sun 12pm–3pm, din­ner Sun–wed 5pm–10pm, Thurs–sat 5pm–11pm. 8687 0775. sak­er­estau­ SOUTHGATE. Around The World. Dis­cover a unique col­lec­tion of river­side restau­rants, cafes and bars at Southgate Mel­bourne, lo­cated along the banks of the Yarra River. With ex­cep­tional city sky­line views, Southgate is a din­ing des­ti­na­tion sure to im­press. Find fan­tas­tic ca­sual din­ing at Blue­train, Bavar­ian favourites at Hophaus, Can­tonese cui­sine at Red Em­peror, mod­ern Ital­ian at Tutto Benne, con­tem­po­rary Aus­tralian at Pure South Din­ing and so much more.

Banks of the Yarra River, Mel­bourne. 9686 1000. south­gatemel­


■ MUNICH BRAUHAUS. Bavar­ian. Munich Brauhaus is a tra­di­tional Bavar­ian bier­haus, where guests can dine, drink and party like Ok­to­ber­fest never ended. The state-of-theart wa­ter­front venue seats over 900 peo­ple and is a bier lovers de­light. Try the venue’s very own sig­na­ture Munich Lager, as well as a series of ex­clu­sively im­ported Bavar­ian Biers, while the menu in­cludes suck­ling pig, sourced lo­cally from River­lea and cooked over a char­coal spit.

45 South Wharf Prom­e­nade, South Wharf. Sun–thur 11.30am–late, Fri– Sat 11.30am–1am. 1300 686 424. mu­nich­

Munich Brauhaus.

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