Supernormal has all the hallmarks of a classic McConnell – beautifully executed takes on classic Asian food concepts, a slick, understated fit out, open kitchen and the indefinable X-factor that this design-savvy chef-restaurateur weaves into each new venture.
Design wise the feel is indisputably Japanese – something made very clear by the simple katakana signage and crimson neon cherries that can be seen from the Flinders Lane entrance. “This project had quite a long gestation period – well over a year,” Andrew McConnell explains. It included a four-month pop-up on Gertrude Street and research trips to Japan with the venue’s designer, Dion Hall of Projects of Imagination, whose team was also responsible for the refurb at Cutler & Co., as well as the fit outs at Golden Fields and Moon Under Water.
Housed in the new 171 Collins Street development, the large, glass-fronted space features playful touches such as Japanese snack vending machines, more vibrant neon and even a basement karaoke room (a hint, perhaps, at what McConnell likes to do in his spare time).
A long, zinc-topped bar flanks one side of the room, parallel to the open kitchen where a platoon of chefs (many carried over from the now-closed Golden Fields) work in full view of the dining room. Although he stresses that the interior fit out is still not complete, Hall and his team have cleverly worked with the large space to create a sense of cocooning warmth, helped along by the glow of the custom-made, cube-shaped lights that line the kitchen bar.
You’ll find plenty of Chinese influence on the menu – an echo of McConnell’s time spent living and working in Shanghai and Hong Kong. It features dishes such as dumplings, bao and Szechuan-peppered brisket. There are plenty of Korean and Japanese flavours shining through too; pulled Korean BBQ pork shoulder, skewered meats, kimchi, steaming bowls of ramen at lunch and some of the most delightful and creative desserts we’ve had in some time. And for those still pining for lost Golden Fields-era classics such as the lobster rolls and the peanut-butter parfait – relax, they’re here too.
Supernormal opens Tuesday May 6.
180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
(03) 9650 8688
Sun to Thurs 11am-11pm
Fri & Sat 11am–midnight