The redbrick building on the corner of Glenhuntly Road and Riddell Parade was once home to The Caulfield Rifle Club. Then it sat empty for about 20 years.
Then, two years ago, Richie Ludbrook and Dave Sharry (the pair behind The Boatbuilder’s Yard and Riverland) got the go ahead to transform the unused space into their new venue, Bang Bang at the Rifle Club.
“Everyone we know who lives in the area kept saying to us, ‘Just give us somewhere we can go to drink with our friends’,” says Ludbrook. “There’s no real local community hub, and a lack of bars, so we knew we had to deliver that.”
Bang Bang is a cafe, restaurant and bar, open from 6am until late, just across the road from Elsternwick train station.
“The land is owned by VicTrack,” says Ludbrook. “There were about 100 submissions for the space, and we were lucky enough to get it.”
Ludbrook initially saw the menu as entirely Lao-focused. His wife, Tao, was born in Laos, and her father used to run a Laotian restaurant in Astonville in New South Wales. He was Ludbrook’s sounding board for Bang Bang.
“My father-in-law said to me, ‘If you only serve Laotian food, you’ll be broke in a month’,” says Ludbrook.
So the menu is broader, with a French-Indochine theme (Thai, Vietnamese and other South East Asian cuisines with a French influence). Matt Dunbar, former head chef at Longrain, is heading up the kitchen.
For breakfast, as well as avocado on toast (with tomato jaew, a spicy Thai dipping sauce) and croque monsieur, there’s a turmeric omelette with pork and prawn, and a smoked trout and prawn congee.
Ludbrook says he’s “not worried” about Melburnians embracing Bang Bang’s Asian breakfast dishes; he has faith in their willingness to experiment.
For dinner there’s Spring Bay mussel bouillabaisse with lemongrass, papaya and kohlrabi slaw; ocean trout and banana-flower salad; and a Flintstone-sized chargrilled Cape Grim short rib in a basil broth.
The cocktail list is also influenced by South East Asia; there’s Thai basil in a Cucumber Smash, and kaffir lime leaves and galangal in the Margarita.
Six Degrees and Chamberlain Architects worked together to transform the old brick building into a tropical sanctuary on the edge of the Elsternwick Station Reserve. There’s hanging plants and palm-leaf wallpaper inside, with a large outdoor area and veranda shaded by palm trees.
“We want people to feel relaxed and be able to dine without feeling suffocated,” says Ludbrook. “You can come here for any occasion; for brunch, a drink outside on the stools, or an intimate dinner.”
It’s an airy, relaxed spot to catch a breath on bustling Glenhuntly Road, whether you’re on your way to work, or stopping in for a beer on the way home.
294 Glenhuntly Road, Elsternwick
(03) 8692 2680