Captain Melville, the colonial-styled restaurant that melds modern Australian and European cuisine, launched to the public last Friday. The new city spot is brought to us by the same squires behind ‘Miss Lib’ – Paul Scanlan, Alan Sam and Roshan Nijar – who have also instated chef Shayne McCallum as their kitchen lead.
Captain Melville has an open-spaced, communal dining hall with hanging ‘lightsaber’ vertical lighting over tables at the rear, with the front bar designed by Breathe Architecture (Brother Baba Budan, Seven Seeds) looking out onto Franklin Street.
Olive trees are scattered throughout the back and for an outback touch, tables are adorned with native bush plants, flowers, leaves and eucalyptus gumnuts. There are also the cowhide-bound menus and staff aprons, but Captain Melville is far from a corny concept.
While Miss Libertine was named after 1860s burlesque performer, Lola Montez, who was known for her infamous 'spider dance', Captain Melville takes its moniker from the bushranger, Francis McCallum.
“They were both from the same era and we continue to keep that narrative and do justice to the building,” says Scanlan. “He’s the male version, basically.”
It’s scarily coincidental then that the venue’s head chef shares the same surname. “Yeah, I’m not sure they looked back at my bloodline,” grins McCallum.
Studying Australian food of the mid-1850s for inspiration, McCallum soon realised he was clutching at straws. “The soil was just so bad that nothing grew except for onions, cabbage and carrots so I went with a coleslaw definitely [on the menu]. Damper was too clichéd but stews worked so braised rabbit pie is on the list here,” he says.
The dessert list also respects Australian classics via the lamington – frozen with extra coconut, chocolate and raspberry – and the motherly trifle. Meanwhile, the chocolate mousse, Anzac biscuit, sponge and meringue continue the thread, as do the rural Victorian-themed cocktails, rum and whiskey refreshments.
The venue’s mission to create pub classics at restaurant level resonates with a very paddock-to-the-plate style, with McCallum sourcing much of his ingredients locally and giving a nod to regions McCallum the bushranger would frequent. From Gippsland (Black Angus beef), Hopkins River (eye fillet) to Rokewood’s Wurrook Merino for the black pepper and fennel sausages, McCallum the chef has even given the chicken parmigiana a makeover.
“I’ve always liked going to the pub and having a parma and a beer, even if it’s just an old man’s pub counter meal, but I bit the bullet [and experimented],” he says. McCallum’s offering is the Bannockburn free-range chicken with fresh, kitchen-made breadcrumbs with lemon, ham shaved off the bone and a selection of cheeses.
“I’m playing around with some cheeses at the moment,” McCallum explains. “Like a Scamorza Bianca, the white mozzarella and just a little bit of tasty cheese to give it that balance, seasoning it with basil and tricking it up a little bit.”
It’s all very local, connected, pastoral and daring at Captain Melville. Drop in on the old boy soon – he’ll be waiting under the stairs.
34 Franklin Street, Melbourne
(03) 9663 6895
Friday 11am- 3am
Saturday 12pm- 3am
Sunday 12pm - 12am