What makes an Australian bistro? For Henry Crawford (Bar Romantica), Joseph Ho and Alexei Taheny-Macfarlane, it’s a place where casarecce pasta can sit beside a classic American cheeseburger, bubbling French onion soup and beer-battered Spencer Gulf prawns with Southeast Asian aromatics. Where a pint of tap beer might precede a bottle of aged Mount Mary red or a gin Martini.

That’s how things go at Bistra. The narrow and intimate double-storey space delivers a good ol’ fashioned restaurant that takes you back to dining rooms past – white tablecloths and all. Friendly waitstaff ferry scallops baked with garlic and parsley butter, or lychees with coconut custard and lime granita (a spin on a dessert from Ho’s childhood) between closely packed tables dressed in white linen and paper.

Alongside the food is a 460-strong wine list that the owners amassed over years. Ho and Taheny-Macfarlane have worked in the Victorian wine industry for years – at many times together – and lean on local producers (Garagiste, Joshua Cooper and Oscar Hermann among them). Alongside back vintages from stalwarts like Mount Mary (where Ho and Taheny-Macfarlane previously worked), Wantirna Estate and Crawford River, expect premium old-world drops like beaujolais, burgundy and chianti.

The team also worked with interior designer (and Ho’s wife) Pip McCully of Studio Wonder to source works from local artists such as Darren Sylvester, Riley Payne, Ben Mazey, Carol Crawford (Henry’s mum) and Billy Vanilli, which are scattered throughout the space (there’s a ceramic tile work in the bathroom you should keep an eye out for).

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Updated: April 29th, 2024

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