Three years after they opened Uncle St Kilda, Rene Spence and Dai Duong have opened a second restaurant – this time in the CBD.
“People responded so well to St Kilda that we thought about trying another suburb,” says Spence. “But the city is just thriving. People come from north, south, east and west.
“It’s definitely where all the action is,” Duong adds.
Occupying the first floor of a former office building, Uncle Collins Street is slightly smaller than its south-side counterpart, and built over one level as opposed to three. Large fold-out windows open to leafy, treetop views, and cane furniture and pink and orange lights create a fun, tropical vibe.
As in St Kilda, a large central bar is a key feature, as is the colourful ceramic crockery made by Spence’s wife, under the label Fork Ceramics.
“It still feels like an Uncle, but it has its own thing going on as well,” says Spence.
The biggest change between the two venues is in the menu. “We’ve brought over a couple of favourites from St Kilda,” says Duong. “The pig’s ear bánh mì; the hapuka betel leaf; the black wild rice; and the pho. But probably 80 per cent of the dishes here are new.”
One of those dishes – burrata with heirloom tomatoes, pickled papaya, Thai basil and puffed wild rice – is the only one (for the moment) to feature Duong’s experimental whisky-barrel-aged fish sauce. He’s been aging it for five months so far, and it’ll make its way into more dishes when the current batch is mature enough.
Like the food menu, a few cocktails have also come over from St Kilda, including the Mekong Splice with white rum, mango sorbet and coconut foam. Cocktails such as The Paris End, made with gin, basil syrup, lychee, bitters, lime and prosecco are new.
There’s also a list of largely Victorian wine and beer, including a Stomping Ground lager and a Bad Shepherd pale ale on tap.
Uncle CBD Level 1, 15 Collins Street (03) 9654 0829
Hours: Mon to Sat, 12pm–late