After reporting on Melbourne's dining culture for five years we discovered what we've been told all along: opening a restaurant is not easy. “We had 350 people coming to have a drink on opening night and we nearly didn’t have a liquor license,” says Broadsheet publisher, Nick Shelton. “At 4.50pm, 10 minutes before the council closed for the day, everything came through. Let’s just say we let our hair down after that.”
“Broadsheet has always been about curation – about creating a platform to celebrate what we love about the city,” says Shelton. But that doesn’t mean setting up The Broadsheet Restaurant was straightforward.
The brief was to emulate what is happening in Melbourne right now, from sophisticated cafe food for breakfast and lunch, through to exceptional but casual dinners, and a bar you want to meet in for a beer after work or drink cocktails at late into the evening.
The response is this. Mornings at The Broadsheet Restaurant start with Small Batch coffee and plates such as Top Paddock’s twice-baked brioche French toast. Then lunch, when The Kettle Black’s Cape Grim beef on its famous black buns are pumped out of the kitchen. For dinner, The Town Mouse offers whole baked flathead with clam, green olive and basil. The Estelle Bistro is sharing its pork jowl and loin with boudin noir. Bar food from Añada is best enjoyed up at the bar with a draft beer on tap by Stella Artois or drinks from Australia’s World Class Bartender of the Year, Boilermaker House’s Jack Sotti. There are classic bottled cocktails from The Everleigh, wine curated by sommelier Sally Humble, and a handful of local bottle beers. The Broadsheet Restaurant is also the only place in Melbourne currently offering desserts by pastry chefs Pierre Roelofs and Philippa Sibley. Running the restaurant as manager is Jamie McBride, owner of Barry, and previously of Touchwood.
Huxtable – which has contributed red-wine-braised beef short rib with parsnip puree and persillade, and a sweet-corn macaroni cheese with smoked mozzarella and chipotle – is one of more than 20 collaborators.
“I suppose you could liken it to writing a cookbook,” says Huxtable chef and owner, Daniel Wilson. “You’re basically giving someone else permission to cook your recipes, but I guess with a kitchen team versus a home cook, they’ve got more experience and are more likely to reproduce something as close as possible to the original.”
Georgina Damm from Damm Fine Food, with her Head Chef Glen Davies, have put together a restaurant-quality kitchen crew for the pop-up, headed during the day by Adele Stevens (Newmarket Hotel and The Big Group). In the evening, Kylie McAllister (ex Masterchef and Vue de Monde) and Scott Denning, an old friend of Wilson’s who came highly recommended by Scott Pickett (Estelle Bistro and Saint Crispin), run the show.
With a history cooking with Davies and Damm before, Wilson knows his dishes are in safe hands, having sampled the kitchen’s recreation of his recipes before the opening. “They really made time for each chef to go down there and go through the process properly,” he says.
The result of keeping chefs heavily involved is a pop-up restaurant that serves outstanding food throughout the day. “You can come here for a breakfast meeting; a full brunch; or to read the paper all day. Or you can pull out your laptop; stay for a three-course dinner with the in-laws; or come for a cocktail at midnight,” says Shelton.
The opportunity to take over the Gertrude Street space came up a few months ago, but by the time the team had gone through the design and development process, there were 10 days to turn an empty shell into a 150-seat restaurant.
“For better or worse, I’ve not heard of any project cutting it that fine in my whole career,” says Alex Lake, from Therefore Studio, which designed the space with The Company You Keep. “They didn’t just drop the Broadsheet name and everything fell into place, they really had to work for it.”
“One of the main references was a beautiful, up-market restaurant in a 100-year old building in London, but this was a pop-up for two months in a temporary building. It’s good to shoot for the best, but we had to look at what was relevant and achievable for a pop-up. You have to think about the lifecycle,” says Lake.
The compromise was to use simple materials that don’t require a lot of finishing, staining wood to add texture, and thoughtful use of lighting and proportion to create warmth.
“We all kept pushing each other on how good this could be. We didn’t want plywood or milk crates; we didn’t want it to look cheap,” says Shelton. “This is a pop-up that looks like a full-blown restaurant, and I think that together we’ve raised the bar for what the pop-up can be.”
Bringing together so many collaborators in such a short amount of time was never going to be easy, but The Broadsheet Restaurant ultimately exists because of those involved. “The trick is that we haven’t tried to do this ourselves,” says Shelton. “We know that we can’t do it better than anyone else out there. It’s not us saying, ‘this is how you run a restaurant’. We’ve brought in the best people to do it.”
The Broadsheet Restaurant is open until August 2, 2015. In 2016, it’s Sydney’s turn.
The Broadsheet Restaurant
Mon & Tue 7am–4pm
Wed to Sun 7am–1am