Combining a love affair of Soho, New York and capturing traditional Italian flavours makes up the key origins of the newly open Southbank restaurant and bar – Soho. Granted the name doesn’t have a strong correlation to its Italian themed; this can be overlooked with the offerings and ambiance awaiting patrons.
Soho on Southbank delivers a combination of industrial and modern look that’s noticeable in both its inside and outside space. The inside dining area and bar is highlight with a strong mac black colour scheme and is complemented effortlessly with both wood and brickwork features. While the inside area does have limited natural light, this works to their favour with well-placed lighting features – catering to both intimate and friendly occasions. The alfresco area uses its natural light and river views to its full advantage in alluring the drink and bite crowd to enjoy stunning city views whilst sipping on a favourite cocktail or craft beer.
Just like the popular drunkfast, drunch and drunner (a combination of drinking and eating around a meal time) that many New Yorkers like to spend their weekends, Soho aims to offer the ideal location for weekend afternoon cocktails, food and drinks. The cocktail menu is crafted with New York in mind and the all Italian chef team (excluding their head chef) aim to serve an undiscovered aspect of Italian cuisine that has yet to be fully embraced in Melbourne. For starters, there is no pasta on this menu!
A vibrant red cocktail called Chelsea was a great starter to the late lunch. The fruity flavours nicely danced on the palate to perk up the last of the sleepy heads and adding a touch of class – being served in a Champagne flute. It certainly got everyone in the right mood.
The Upstate is the lighter and citrus brother of the whisky sour. Of course, there is no egg white, but the combination of the citrus and sour flavours from the apple complements the whiskey perfectly. It’s an easy cocktail to consume, be it a reminder of what summer tastes like or to enjoy when the sun is out.
Bombadino was the final cocktail to send off the afternoon as the sun slowly hid from the horizon. A strong shot of brandy was combined with a beautiful creamy head with notes of nutmeg and grounded cinnamon. There was no need for dessert as this sweet – and rather alcoholic- cocktail strongly captured and closed the Italian theme feast.
Soho has a clear and passionate vision to its menu. With the owner and managers coming from the southern region of Italy, they wanted to recreate how their families approach Italian cooking and emulate it right here in Melbourne. From cured meats to Italian tomatoes, they intend to source ingredients from their home region when custom laws permit. As explained, an Italian tomato is completely different to that of an Australian. While they can’t currently import prosciutto on the bone, the ingredients and local recipes are the key factors that make this Italian experience unique.
As the dishes arrived to the table it was clear that there was a strong sense of sharing and community as we ate rustic Italian mains and pizza. Starting with Mozzarella di buffalo with new season figs, baby beetroot, basil & mint was exceptional fresh and vibrant as a starter. Followed with Yarra Valley crispy zucchini flowers, sage branches & lemon and, Today small fish “agro dolce” marinated in saffron, white balsamic, red onion was delectable with each bite – and difficult to find fault with the food.
Soho refuses to have pasta on their menu, but have perfected their pizzas to cater for the cautious and curious crowd. Sampling both Asiago cheese, smoked scamorza, Gorgonzola, red chicory, sausage & shaved Parmesan and Prosciutto, rocket, buffalo mozzarella, San Marzanos tomato & soho olive oil were both delightful and having exceptional fresh toppings. The buffalo mozzarella used was just super fresh, and truly enhanced the pizza.
What won the table over was the Mozzarella di bufala with crescentini, salsa pommodoro crudo. From the picture it doesn’t look much, some might say it just looks like a mini pizza. However, the fluffy dough had been shallow fried and effortless topped with salsa and mozzarella. This dish proves that the simplest ingredients can elevate a meal from great to fantastic.
Melbourne prides itself of being a city where ‘the best…’ is down an alleyway or requires taking on a journey of its own. But can exceptional food be found in plain sight? Soho, on the very busy South Bank precinct has the potential to be different from its competitors.