In 2015, Annie and Tuoi Tran opened Gondola Gondola – on the corner of Peel Street and Hindley Street – with a menu that drew primarily from Tuoi’s Vietnamese heritage as well as wider Southeast Asian influences. For its sister restaurant, Blue Rose, the pair lean more on Annie’s Chinese background (and neighbouring cuisines).
Head chef Tuoi's menu comprises a generous line-up of smaller dishes designed to share, backed by produce from Tuoi’s family’s farm in Virginia. The family connection is writ large in dishes such as “A mothers love” – a cucumber salad made using Annie’s mother’s chilli oil recipe, Tuoi’s own vinaigrette sauce, and his mother’s Lebanese cucumbers.
Other small plates might include Vietnamese beef tartare with chives, fresh herbs and prawn crackers; and a pho pot pie with tender beef chunks, bone marrow, tripe, beef meatballs and pho gravy, served in hand-rolled puff pastry.
Among the larger dishes you might find soy-base Taiwanese braised pork with peanut and dried-shrimp crumb, pickled white cabbage and sambal belacan. Also, a cuisine-crossing Sichuan-Cajun seafood boil with local mussels, pipis, clams and crab legs, as well as corn ribs, a cheese kranski, confit potatoes, Cajun spice and Sichuan mala butter.
The beachside location naturally demands a sizable seafood offering, and Blue Rose delivers with its own fish and chips: basa (Southeast Asian catfish) fillet fried in a Tiger beer and vodka batter with spring onion salt, spicy tartare sauce and hand-cut chips.
The drinks list includes white, orange, pink and red wines from local producers alongside some premium Italian imports. Among the handful of Asian beers is Blue Rose’s house lager on tap, made by Barossa Valley Brewing. Suitably beachy cocktails include the house signature Blue Rose, a sweet mix of white rum, butterfly pea flower tea, Licor 43, elderflower, yuzu and aquafaba.
Overlooking Henley Square, the open, lofty fit-out – designed by Sans-Arc Studio and built by M Samaras Build – is all cool colour tones with accents of red and features an exposed kitchen, front bar and a dining turntable at ground level, plus more seating on the mezzanine.
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