Walk down the stairs to the private dining room at South Melbourne’s mammoth new restaurant Lucia, and you’d be forgiven for thinking you were on the set of a James Bond movie. “The Vault” as the 25-seat underground room is called, has a soundproof ceiling, a television for presentations (I can see Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chiffre using it to walk us through his plans for world domination now) and a marble bar.

The Lucia team hopes the companies based in Eleven Eastern, the new South Melbourne high-rise office building that houses the restaurant on its ground floor, will make good use of the private room. In fact, co-owner Anthony Silvestre says it was a big drawcard for the team to open a restaurant in the space.

Silvestre, along with eight business partners, quietly opened the 80-seat European restaurant in the middle of February. It’s a win for the area and the biggest venue that the group, known for neighbourhood dining and its venues Riserva, Baia Di Vino and San Lorenzo, has opened. (The Eleven Eastern landlord is a big fan of the group’s other restaurants and wanted them to activate the building’s restaurant space).

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“We always tried to bring city dining to the suburbs – that was our style,” Silvestre tells Broadsheet, “but now I feel like with this venue, we’re bringing suburban dining to this part of town. I never envisioned opening a venue this close to the city.”

And when he says suburban dining, Silvestre is really talking about that kind of unstuffy old-school hospitality. At Lucia, the front-of-house team is led by co-owner Christian Janko, who recently worked at Entrecote and before that spent over 25 years on the floor at Melbourne institution France-Soir. “It is my destiny to do this,” Janko says of leading the young and optimistic front-of-house team.

When Broadsheet visits, the stalwart of the industry sports a broach with the face of Saint Lucia of Syracuse, who in various traditions is associated with light, on his lapel. The venue is filled with nods to the saint, seen prominently in custom large-scale pieces by Melbourne collage artist Simone Esterhuizen, who uses an earthy colour palette that prominently draws on colours like burgundy, silver and amber.

The same hues are used throughout the main ground-floor dining room where burnt-red velvet chairs contrast with plush grey booths. The dining room is divided into two sections, with a casual bar where you’re welcome to sit and enjoy a cocktail and a selection of snacks including a Blanc Bakery bread basket, a Wagyu burger (which is only available at the bar) with fries or even a fried choux pastry doughnut served with white sturgeon caviar.

The team is full of self-professed wine guys who, during Covid, spent their personal funds buying up allocations of hard-to-find wines that are usually offered to the big restaurant groups. The collection makes up part of the 400-strong list, overseen by head sommelier Simone Garro. Silvestre says he’s most excited by some of the burgundies and Boudreauxs, high-end Tuscan wines and back vintage drops that in “normal times” are hard to come by.
If you’re more of a cocktail person, bar manager Efe Iseri (ex-Kisume) has developed a list of European-inspired cocktails including Bellinis and half-serve or “two-sip” Martinis and Negronis.

With such a plush space that calls to mind the kind of grand venues Andrew McConnell’s Trader House or Chris Lucas’s Lucas Group have been known to open, it’s no surprise the team has found a chef with experience at both groups. Head chef Jordan Clavaron (ex-Society, Cutler & Co) has developed an approachable menu with trusted European staples including crab linguini, chicken liver parfait with choux pastry and duck fat kipfler potatoes.

The Lucia team also has a small kiosk for takeaway coffee and pastries (which are bought in for now and will eventually be made in-house) in the Eleven Eastern lobby that is due to open on March 12. They’ll also be opening a grab-and-go spot for lunches near the kiosk in the months ahead.

11 Eastern Rd, South Melbourne
9765 6444

Tues to Sat 12pm–10pm