Dylan Evans has done stints in some of the world's most famous kitchens, including Manresa in Los Gatos, California, Alinea in Chicago, and four months at Rene Redzepi’s Noma in Copenhagen.
Back in Melbourne – his hometown – Evans has opened his own restaurant on Swan Street, putting the skills he honed at those top diners and most recently at Fargo & Co (just across the road) to the test. Caddie is laidback but atmospheric, with a "market-driven food" pitch.
"The menu at Caddie is dictated on what we feel like cooking, and what ingredients we can get our hands on," Evans says. "We had oysters on the menu last week and had quite a few left over. So we dehydrated them, made an XO sauce and served up.
“One of the chefs and I also came across some persimmons that we couldn't resist [while] walking down Victoria Street the other day.” Those were turned into a marinade for chicken wings.
There is a base menu – it's not all impulsive. But Caddie will offer dishes developed on a whim along the way, which fit into the Evans vision.
"The idea of our food is that it’s accessible with slight twists. We don't want to scare people," he says.
So diners will find dishes made up of only three to five key ingredients. To start there might be olives, oysters, and a serving of brined lupini beans – “pop the skin off like edamame", Evans explains. Slightly bigger dishes could include an omelette with smoked barramundi and cheddar, and beetroot with salted plum dressed in marigold vinegar. A main could be pasta with prawn, black garlic and bottarga, or steak served with pickled artichoke and bone marrow. Maybe a ginger tart with pear caramel to finish.
While Evans appreciated the meticulousness of Noma’s approach, he was influenced most by the fine diner’s ability to put together unique combinations of just a few ingredients that complemented and enhanced each other. This is something he also saw in three-month spells at Grant Achatz’s Alinea, and Manresa, a Michelin-starred farm-to-table eatery in Silicon Valley. He says the latter was the most inspiring place to work, for its flavour combinations and the vibrancy of its food.
Caddie is a much more relaxed affair – the menu is filled with food that Evans likes to eat.
Hence the nod to his childhood – a reinvented version of Welsh rarebit, inspired by the one his mother used to make for him. It’s a combination of melted cheddar, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco and egg yolk, spread on toast.
167 Swan Street, Richmond
(03) 9427 8501
Tue and Wed 5.30pm–late
Thu to Sat 12.00pm–late