irginia Plain, the new restaurant by Marco Santucci, is open. Santucci settled on the long space located above Craft Victoria on Flinders Lane after “literally looking at hundreds of places”.
“I wanted something that was raw, open, with good light with a sense of the cityscape.”
At 440 square metres, it’s a huge room, made beautiful by Santucci’s own design. “The brief was to try not to be generic,” he says. “Almost everything has been handmade.” The walls feature slices of agate mounted on brackets lit from behind, while the striking, bell-shaped lights that hang above the bar were made by Richmond-based glassblower Phil Stokes.
It’s textured and warm, with the front area of the room dressed with floating marble tables designed by Santucci and a confronting, nonetheless beautiful artwork by collaborative artists Robert Doble and Simon Strong.
The menu, by chef Andy Harmer, is contemporary European and the playful explanations of dishes hint at the casual ethos of the restaurant.
Sectioned by musically influenced titles, the menu is built around dishes that highlight both Harmer’s skill and humour. Town Hall pigeon is a fine example, with black quinoa and baby beets resembling blood, its cheeky name belying its edgy but delicious layers of texture and classic finish. There’s also Wagyu Wellington (large dish for sharing or served in single portions), as well as crispy pigs ears, sticky beef brisket in a bun and crayfish thermidor.
The wine list, by sommelier Raul Moreno Yague, is studied and supportive of the menu, all the while featuring its own quirkiness and exploratory nature with a section featuring natural wines, beers and ciders from around the world.
Music is as pivotal to the experience here as the food and wine. Indeed, Virginia Plain is the name of UK band Roxy Music’s first album released in 1972 and Santucci – who owns 11 metres of vinyl – has installed a turntable behind the bar. It adds to the experience as a whole, which Santucci hopes will evolve and grow over time.
“I want it [Virginia Plain] to be rounded, resolved, playful, loose and approachable,” he says. “Not too measured but more organic, where relationships between staff, the patrons, the food and the beverage will evolve.”
Here's to evolution and good music.
31 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
(03) 9290 0400
Mon to Wed 11am–11pm
Thurs to Sat 11am–1am