Since selling its iconic Melbourne cafes Top Paddock, Kettle Black and Higher Ground last year, the Mulberry Group has been busy. It opened its elegant CBD cafe Liminal in May and then in July opened farm and cafe Common Ground Project.
Now the group has announced two new venues, Hazel and Dessous, due to open this month. Mulberry Group CEO Nathan Toleman tells Broadsheet the group has been working on the venues for more than two years.
Hazel will open on Monday October 14 over the ground and first floors of the T&G Building on Flinders Lane. The building is designed in the neo-renaissance architectural style and was built in three stages between 1928 and 1959. The three levels occupied by Hazel and Dessous have most recently been used as offices.
Its interiors, designed by the Stella Collective (Blacksmith, Workshop Brothers CBD), are said to be filled with natural light from the large south-facing windows. You’ll also find polished wooden floors and soft curves.
“We laid all-new American oak floorboards. There’s a fairly neutral colour palette, pale-leather banquettes and pink-stone,” says Toleman. “We wanted something that wasn’t too trend-driven, that would stand the test of time and not really be about the design. A crazy design doesn’t necessarily cut through anymore so we wanted something pared-back and minimal, and to make it more about the food and the service you get in the space.”
Inside the kitchen, led by head chef Zac Nicholson (formerly head chef at Rockpool Bar & Grill), will be a woodfired grill and oven heated by Australian ironbark wood.
“I wanted somebody that could do food that was fairly stripped back, no trickery, just really simple flavours,” says Toleman. “[Zac] was really on the same page in terms of letting the food speak for itself and not overcomplicating the dishes.”
The pair has taken influence from bustling restaurants they visited on research trips to Los Angeles venues such as Middle Eastern diner Bavel and offal-specialist Animal. The kitchen at Hazel is completely open and surrounded by bar seating so diners can watch the chefs in action.
The menu includes a range of dishes served on toast, such as fromage frais and broad bean leaves; Gruyere, guindillas (a type of chilli pepper) and fried ‘nduja; and smoked mullet and caper spread. There will also be a range of handmade pastas and noodles. Mains include dishes such as lamb forequarter chop with chimichurri, wood-grilled half duck with aged balsamic and a 45-day-aged 400-gram grass-fed rib eye on the bone. Charcuterie and cheese will be made in-house supported by produce from the farm at Common Ground Project.
Hazel's bar will be led by bar manger Alberto Carrozza (formerly QT Melbourne) and head bartender Tom McHugh (formerly Gin Palace). Classic cocktails will be given slight twists. For example, a Negroni will be sous vide with strawberries, the pulp of which will then be turned into a fruit leather. You'll also find a range of low-alcohol cocktails suited to lunchtime drinking.
The restaurant will open from Monday to Saturday for lunch from 12pm to 4pm, for dinner from 6pm to 11pm and for Sunday lunches from 11am to 5pm.
Dessous is a new wine and cocktail bar opening in the building’s basement on Monday October 21. More on that soon.