Tucked beneath the centre’s Little Lonsdale entrance (hence the name), The Moat opened quietly last week after months of preparations. The cafe and bar looks to establish the city’s literary precinct as a new food and wine destination.

Stepping off from the street, the sunken outdoor terrace is immediately welcoming – with faux-wicker chairs, potted herbs and bright green astroturf all lending a kitschy, French picnic feel to this very inner city location.

Inside the intimate bunker-like space, a long, glossy, brass-topped bar and bright open kitchen – which features a huge lithograph image of a ‘tea moth’ by local artist Peter Robertson – skirt one side of the space. The fit-out by local designer Christo Gillard is respectful of the building’s strict heritage overlay and features rich tones of gold and deep reds, with book-lined walls and dark wood furnishings evoking images of a classic private library. In a nice touch, lovely old sepia-toned pianola scrolls have been up-cycled to create gorgeously warm light shades, which speak words of love, romance and sadness.

The team behind The Moat comprises general manager Paul Bonet (Cafe Breadwell, Pause), front of house manager Rosie Avitable (Mint Cafe, Pause) and head chef Emma Jeffrey (Reserve, Fenix, Matteo's). With their flexible Euro/Middle Eastern menu, the team hopes to attract plenty of State Library and Wheeler Centre regulars, while the 1am licensing and share-friendly late night suppers also add to the appeal.

Bonet says they purposely designed the space to encourage conversation, and what better way to start the conversation than with a good book. He says customers are encouraged to “bring a book, take a book”, exchanging a good book of their own with one from The Moat’s communal book case.

With or without your library haul in tow, the good news is that you needn’t be too literary or highbrow to enjoy the charms of this welcoming new innercity space.

The Moat
176 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne
(03) 9094 7820

Mon-Sat 12pm-1am (from Dec 5, Mon to Sat 8am–1am)