Enquire Within is closing soon. The new restaurant from the folks behind B’Stilla – Jason Jones, Anita Basile and Hugo Tremayne – has only been open for a matter of weeks. But they’re already discussing what will come next. “We might do a fine-diner with degustations and whatever,” muses Basile. “And at the end you get a greasy cheeseburger and fries in a bag to take home with you.”
It’s not for lack of diners that Enquire Within is considering a change of direction, however. From day one, the partners envisioned a venue that shifts gears annually, moving from French bistro one year, to Pirate Party the next.
For the moment the South Yarra diner is a kind of kooky clubhouse, with cartoon walls and Scrabble. If it sounds insistently wacky, it’s not: Enquire Within doesn’t overthink personality and there’s plenty of room to move, both physically and conceptually. For her part, Basile wants diners to have the same relationship to the diner as her father did to the Flagstaff Bowls. “I just love the relationship he had with that club. He’d be there four times a week, he might play one night, have drinks another and then eat there another,” she says. “It’s a little family.”
The menu is equally hard to pin down. Exec chef’d by Jones (who’s based, of late, in Singapore), the day-to-day cookery is handled by Florian Ribul. The impressive young chef has taken the road less travelled: he was born in WA, went to cookery school in Brunei, came up through restaurants in Austria, London and, most recently, Hammer and Tong in Fitzroy.
This month there’s the braised artichoke, broth, peas and herbs (which is vegan, incidentally); scallops of caramel-coloured beef shortrib with garlic, ginger and bright-green spring-onion coulis; and party pies filled with oxtail and house-made passata. Ribul’s obviously got designs on making his own charcuterie, with a decommissioned wine fridge bulging with his very own ham and snags.
Tables of four that order ahead can sign up to eat a whole beast. At the moment, the restaurant is doing a number on whole goose, with, say, terrine to start, goose pie entree and a goose-leg ham to finish. It’s like a menu from the late ’80s, made for modern sensibilities – without drifting into the inedible and ironic. “The dishes are a little bit classic with a bit of quirkiness to them,” Jones says.
Booze also goes against the grain. All the wine – the Witness Point Multi-Vintage white from Gruyere in Victoria for instance, or the Bullet Dodger ‘Delinquente’ Montepulciano – is either $11 a glass or 50 bucks a bottle. “It forces the customer to actually look at the wine rather than just going with the cheapest or the most expensive,” says Basile.
Craft beers are carefully chosen: Big Love Red Ale by Braeside geniuses, Boatrocker, as well as Bridge Road’s Little Bling and the now-multinational Mountain Goat Steam Ale. Cocktails are all wholeheartedly classic – Mai Tais, Boulevardiers, Palomas. “I’m a big fan of classic things,” says Basile. “You don’t need to reinvent the wheel when there’s already awesome shit out there that people don’t know about.”
That said, what’s new is rapidly old again for Melbourne dining, so if you’re interested in trying Enquire Within’s take on the classics, you’d better head down. It’s closing soon.
30 Bray Street, South Yarra
(03) 9826 2370