Bistro dining – believed to have originated in Paris – is offered in just about every corner of the globe. Each city, town and province draws it’s inspiration to this idyllic dining experience – a small restaurant serving moderate priced dishes – and is intertwined with the restaurateurs own ideals and current food trends. That said, the illusive bistro is one tough nut to crack. It’s a balancing act of creating authenticity, being forward looking and ensuring the target market turns up. And yet, the new comers share a familiar enthusiasm and passion in creating their own restaurant style with a touch of bistro flare.
Roxborough is the latest restaurant to make its mark on Acland Street, St Kilda. Acland Street is the main artery of St Kilda where locals, travellers and visitors intersect and interact. It is a tricky landscape to conquer on the food and drink front, but the people behind the institutional Fitzrovia have the experience and know-how to allow Roxborough to flourish. Taking over a dated cafe space in the historic St Kilda Memorial Hall, the space has been refreshed with pleasing summer white walls, slick furnishings and iconic views of Luna Park and St Kilda beach skies.
Roxborough pays tribute to its seaside location with its Mediterranean inspired menu, but also combining an old London luxe feel. What’s fascinating about this set up is while it can seat around 50 – 60 people, the room itself doesn’t feel cramped or stuffy. The metallic style windows offers a lot of warm sunlight and attracts the summer breeze as I made myself comfortable on the bar; noticing the picturesque St Kilda sunset making its final journey. The setting is ideal for a late night dinner or an impulse summer long lunch with the option of eating inside or alfresco.
Being the introductory dinner (organised by Zilla & Brook) the menu showcased some genuinely fabulous dishes and some unusual surprises. The first being the number of Gluten Free options. St Kilda doesn’t necessarily bend over back to food fads, and while it recognises the need to offer GF it still has its fair share of kebab shops and dirty pizza. And yet, not only is the current entree menu GF – including Pippies and clams with smoked pork hock, garlic shorts and parsley (GF) $16.50 & Vitello Tonnato – milk poached veal fillet with tune ‘tartare’ and rye pangritata (GF) $19.50 – the mains also don’t shy to such offerings. Perhaps not intentional, but rather it’s the head chef mantra to have the best and seasonal produce available.
Now, you might be wondering what I thought was the show stopping dishes offered by Roxborough, and in this instance there are two dishes. The first was the very photogenic and arguably the dish you upload to Insta – La Porchetta – Rolled crisp skinned rare breed pork belly, braised chicory, organic black lentils & salsa verde (GF) $28. The crispiness of the pork belly skin is cooked to perfection, offering that desirable crackling that’s so easy to cut into and an absolute delight on the plate. The rolled pork is moist and tender to perfection that marries well with the black lentils and chicory. This is the dish that hones into the beloved bistro element.
The second – and perhaps the more surprising dish – was the Potato gnocchi with zucchini, asparagus, peas, stinging nettle pesto, pine nuts and goats curd (V) $24. Yes, Roxborough is not an Italian restaurant. And yes, I did write Mediterranean inspired above, but boy this dish was a fire cracker. House made Potato gnocchi is time-consuming, delicate and easily overpowered with the inclusion of simple ingredients. With that in mind Roxborough’s gnocchi was a powerhouse. The fluffy gnocchi pillows just melted in your mouth and left me wanting more. Mixed in with the stinging nettle pesto and laid on top with spring/summer greens and fresh goats curd allowed for a sweet/fresh finish. A true stand-out dish from the menu.
Roxborough is an example of what St Kilda is missing in terms of food. A bistro flare that pays tribute to its diverse surroundings and having a strong mantra around good food. It may not be a restaurant that you visit regularly, but as a local or visitor to St Kilda, it’s always good to know when the occasion arises. Finding good food is always a big plus and Roxborough offers this in spades. Make it your next dinner date.
88 Acland Street
Mon – Thurs 12 – 10:30pm
Fri – Sat 12 – 11pm
Sun 12 – 10:30pm