Molli, the latest project from Nathan Toleman and the Mulberry Group (Lilac, Hazel, Dessous, Zareh), represents something of a full-circle moment for Toleman.

The Abbotsford restaurant, which opens tomorrow, is across the road from where the hospo mogul opened his third venue, Three Bags Full, back in 2010.

“Abbotsford really needed a good cafe then,” Toleman tells Broadsheet. “Now it needs a cool bistro wine bar where locals can get a good cocktail.” Molli is his answer.

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The team wanted to create a lived-in feel despite opening in a new building. They achieved this by placing pendant art deco globes and dimmable strip lighting behind the banquettes, and abundant greenery and a selection of antique furniture throughout. French wooden sideboards with parquetry inlays, gilt-framed mirrors and oil paintings sit happily alongside thrift shop curios.

For the food and drink, Toleman tapped into the Mulberry Group talent pool and brought on chef and co-owner Aleksis Kalnins (ex-Hazel) and bartender Kayla Saito (ex-Dessous). The team also sources produce from Common Ground Project, Mulberry Group’s farm in Freshwater Creek.

There are snacks including house-made nori crackers with mushroom ketchup and duck fat-fried potato rosti with sour cream and chives. Larger plates include house-made pasta, pork neck skewers with date puree, and Wagyu rump cap with piperade (a saucy Basque dish made with tomato, onions and green capsicum). There’s also a selection of charcuterie and a cart of cheese and dessert filled with sweets that may include sticky date pudding and pickled cherry chocolate tortes.

Saito’s cocktail list emphasises ferments and preserves and combines her memories of growing up in America with flavours that lean into Australian nostalgia. The seven cocktails will change, but at opening, there’s Basket Case, made with tequila, fermented persimmon, native cinnamon myrtle and native juniper, and Better Together with spiced rum, roasted hazelnut orgeat syrup, mutsu apple butter (cooked down apple sauce), black tea and clarified milk. You can order shareable versions that are served in nostalgic punchbowls.

Just as much care is given to the seven low-alc and zero-proof alternatives, which include a pineapple and pineapple sage water kefir (a fermented drink made using water kefir grains) and a preserved cumquat kombucha.

The wine list is curated by sommelier and assistant manager Andre Magneklint (Bahama Gold, Old Palm Liquor) and it showcases a number of up-and-coming local producers and small family-run operations from overseas. “We have a strong focus on sustainability, locality, and seasonality,” he says. “At least 30 per cent of our wine list will always be Victorian.”

Local record store Dutch Vinyl provides a monthly soundtrack rotation. The new restaurant has a rooftop function space with raised potager beds, chickens and city views. And come summer, there’ll be seating for 40 outside, where you can enjoy a punchbowl cocktail.

Molli
20 Mollison Street, Abbotsford
No Phone

Hours
Wed 5pm–11pm
Thu to Sat midday–11pm
Sun 11.30am–5pm

molliabbotsford.com.au