With its wide plate glass windows looking onto High Street and its cavernous interior, it’s no surprise that the space that once housed Chowhound has been hungrily snapped up by a promising team with some serious hospitality credentials.
Owners Jessica Fitzgerald and Ben Sanders have teamed up with head chef Jono Mackie to create Two by Two, an understated restaurant that aims to showcase high-quality, seasonal produce without the excessive price tag. The three met four years ago while working at Press Club. Fitzgerald worked the front of house and events, while Sanders was assistant restaurant manager and Mackie worked as the restaurant’s sous chef.
When the site became available in September, the trio got to work, renovating the restaurant in a record two weeks. Aside from the timber feature wall that doubles as a floor-to-ceiling wine rack, the restaurant has been given a facelift with new floors, lighting and furniture. The upshot is an interior that celebrates clean lines, natural light and ample space.
Two by Two serves breakfast and lunch from Tuesday to Sunday, and dinner from Thursday to Saturday. Breakfasts range from granola, pancakes and house-cured salmon, to bacon and eggs or roasted field mushrooms. But don’t be fooled into thinking this standard café fare. Even the breakfast menu is given a flourish, with its provision of 63-degree eggs (that’s an egg cooked for just under an hour at the precise temperature of 63 degrees).
The stakes are raised at lunch and dinner. Expect smears, crumbs and foams, with a menu consisting of big and small plates designed to share. Small plates include an elegant asparagus salad with white anchovies; chickpea chips; and pan-fried scallops with black pudding. Ranger Valley beef or barramundi will satisfy larger appetites, and nothing on the menu exceeds $30. Wines are served by the bottle and the glass, while there’s a selection of local and imported beers as well as five different ciders, which will go down a treat in summer.
Open for just a week, the restaurant is already booking out for dinner – an indication that Northcote locals are hungry for food that is cleverly crafted and well-thought out. With The Estelle just a few doors up, and Merricote nearby, Two by Two may be the next restaurant leading keen epicureans up the hill to a new destination dining strip. Only time will tell.
Two by Two
235 High Street, Northcote
(03) 9486 5885
Open for breakfast and lunch, Tuesday to Sunday; dinner, Thursday to Saturday.