For years, the Prince of Wales’ Circa restaurant has boasted an exclusive air in which fine dining, elaborate wine lists and exorbitant prices were the norm. Don’t get us wrong, it was always a spectacular night and the service and quality of fare well and truly matched the prices, but it was never the kind of restaurant where you could pick over one or two dishes, and a couple of glasses of wine. Until now that is.

Director of the Melbourne Pub Group and man with the Midas touch, Julian Gerner (Middle Park Hotel, Albert Park Hotel, The Newmarket), wanted a space to connect with the bustling hub of Fitzroy and Acland Streets, with the view that there is no longer “a need for exclusivity or anonymity”.

With this in mind, the entire structure has been tweaked to adapt to the natural beauty of its surroundings. The main dining room has been moved to overlook Fitzroy Street, with the balcony and its view of the bay and festivities below now prime real estate. There’s also a cosy purpose-built bar area and ‘head chef’s table’, as well as a more casual drinking and bar/dining area where the original outside courtyard once resided.

Melbourne Pub Group chef and director Paul Wilson has also put his special stamp on the menu, favouring seasonal meat and veg combined with native and indigenous flavours rarely seen on Australian menus, such as wattleseed and lemon myrtle. The fare itself is international, or as Wilson dubs it, ‘Pacific Rim’, and is cooked via a variety of methods, including on the custom-designed Robata grill.

Dishes are divided into eight categories and are all paired with appropriate wines, carefully selected by Circa’s talented sommeliers. Think smoked duck with seared scallops in the ‘Hot, Cold and Spicy with Aromatic Wines’ section, or perhaps Kurobuta pork belly and wagyu beef from ‘Circa Yakitori with New Style Wine’.

It’s a new, more casual, era at Circa, which is just what Gerner and Wilson are aiming for.

Circa, Prince of Wales Hotel
2 Acland Street, St Kilda
(03) 9536 1122

Daily 7am–2am