Darran Smith has fond memories of his first job, where he watched old-school waiters preparing flambes and Caesar salads tableside at the Sheraton in Port Douglas. “That’s my first memory and I love yum cha, so I was just thinking, “What can we do to bring them together?’” Smith says.

The result of these ruminations is The Astor, a 70-seat bar and restaurant Smith and his wife, Ilona Phyland, will open in mid-May. It returns the 29-year-old Percy’s Bar and Bistro (once run by ex-Carlton footballer Peter “Percy” Jones) to its original namesake and introduces a rather novel concept: Australian yum cha.

Smith says he wants the restaurant area, The Roving Marrow, to be quick and fun. As such there’ll be three ways to get food. First, from a roving trolley of cold dishes, which will make up about a third of the menu. “Everyone’s done the cheese trolley, everyone’s done the dessert trolley, but this is a savoury-style trolley,” Smith says.

Hot dishes – another third of the menu – will be ferried around on trays, to be snapped up by whichever table spots them first. Finally, a-la-carte mains will be delivered from the kitchen as normal.

Dishes planned for the May opening include liver parfait with salted peanut and pomegranate; charcoal cabbage and aged cheddar with curry spices; and Cloudy Bay clams with green beans. A recent Kiwi import, Hayden Macmillan, will be on the pans.

An extensive wine list has been designed by Rudolph Bertin (ex-Icebergs, Sydney), while cocktails are courtesy of Mike Enright, owner of The Barber Shop, also in Sydney.

The Astor is slated to open in May.

The Astor
418 Lygon Street, Carlton
(03) 9347 7419