Faye is one of those tip-of-the-iceberg restaurants where beneath the fairly nondescript surface is a whole lot of hard graft and creativity.
Located at the base of a new apartment building, the eatery has a 12-seat timber bar with an open kitchen at one end and room for 60 more diners throughout the rest of the space. Wooden wine shelves are set against one of the rainforest-green walls, and some hang over the bar, but that’s about it in terms of decor.
Apart from the plumbing and electrical work, Faye’s three owners fitted out the restaurant themselves. Chefs Marcus Dimabuyo and Daniel Naylor, both formerly of Canberra fine diner Aubergine, and front-of-house manager Rhen Dodd (also winemaker at Ephemera Wines, a Yarra Valley producer) even made their own coffee cups, with help from Gordon Hickmott at Brixton Street Pottery, and poured and finished the concrete floor. “That was a fun day,” says Naylor, laughing.
The trio designed the space to reflect the way they work, with little separation between front of house and the kitchen. “Dan and I played around with a few drawings and couldn’t quite make it work,” says Dodd. “Then Marcus went away for a few days and came back with drawings of essentially this and we thought it was perfect.”
The food follows a similar DIY drive. Dimabuyo always has a sourdough starter on the go and bakes multiple loaves each day. The team makes its own cultured butter, ricotta and pasta – rye and sourdough fettucine with smoked zucchini on the day Broadsheet visited – and forages as much as possible; fig leaves are picked daily, wrapped around ricotta and served with heirloom tomatoes. A lot of fermentation and preserving helps extend short seasons for fruits and vegetables.
The menu also champions fire and char (making good use of a heavy-duty wood oven and charcoal grill), underutilised proteins such as offal, and Victorian seafood including Port Phillip flounder and Corner Inlet whiting and octopus.
“I can’t call it Italian food,” says Naylor. “But in my mind, everything is dealt with in the style or thought process of Italian cooking; it’s local, seasonal and treated simply. We try to keep the menu pretty rapid fire, evolving quickly depending on what’s coming in on a daily basis. Nothing is set in stone until Rhen prints the menu.”
Expect handrolled rye garganelli (a cylindrical pasta) with smoky Corner Inlet baby octopus and tripe ragu; butterflied yellow-eye mullet with bitter grilled cos and stinging nettle; and a plate of sticky caramelised eggplant with black garlic and fermented mushrooms.
If you’ve never eaten chicken heart before, do it here, where it arrives on a skewer with fermented cherries. This is food worth stepping out of your comfort zone for.
Dodd looks after the vinyl selection, which favours funk and soul tunes, and a wine list which is largely Italian with a few French, Austrian, Victorian and South Australian drops. Hop Nation from Footscray and Sailors Grave from Orbost make up the beer offering, and Dodd is working on some non-alcoholic creations such as a fermented strawberry soda with mint, lemon and kefir made of whey left over from the ricotta.
“It’s all quite reactive, depending on what Marcus and Dan are doing in the kitchen. They make a lot of syrups and Dodd has kombucha fermenting,” he says. “We want to make our own wine, eventually.”
Shop 1 22-30 Lygon Street Brunswick East
03 9943 3050
Wed & Thu 5pm–11pm
Fri & Sat 12pm–11pm