Charcoal Lane’s smart service and elegant decor do nothing to suggest “trainee”. The social enterprise restaurant exists to provide Indigenous and disengaged youth with hospitality training and meaningful work.
The handsome building was home to the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service until the late ‘90s. The once-condemned building’s heavy black doors open onto a crisp black and white dining room punctuated simply by eel trap lighting and art commissioned from Victorian Indigenous artists.
Executive chef Greg Hampton spins native and international ingredients into complex, well-presented dishes. Expect to eat wallaby, emu and Moreton Bay bugs flavoured with local flora such as wattleseed, samphire, Davidson’s plum and quandong.
Every savoury dish comes with a recommended wine match, but it’s more fun to keep the native vibes flowing with a Pepperberry Negroni or Lemon Myrtle Whisky Sour. There’s also a brief range of big-name beers.
The restaurant is committed to sourcing ingredients from businesses that will pass on the benefits to Aboriginal communities. It’s an ethos that drives the cooking and teaching in the kitchen, too.