Brigitte Hafner spent more than a decade dreaming of opening a restaurant like Tedesca Osteria. She finally got there at the start of 2020, splitting her time between the Red Hill restaurant and her business in Melbourne, Fitzroy wine bar Gertrude Street Enoteca. Following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Hafner and her business partner James Broadway made the difficult decision to close Gertrude Street, and dedicate themselves fully to Tedesca.
And while it was sad to lose one hospitality icon, we suspect Tedesca will end up having an even greater legacy than its predecessor. It’s one of the best – and most unique – dining experiences in Victoria.
Set in an early 20th century weatherboard house overlooking 27 acres of lush Red Hill farmland, the restaurant seats between 30 and 35 diners for intimate, slow-paced lunches. The relaxed five-course set menu is prepared by just three chefs. It’s seasonal and changes fortnightly, but you can almost always guarantee it will include fresh pasta and seafood. Past dishes have included potatoes cooked in duck fat and coated in reduced onions; broad beans crushed with fresh garlic, coriander and mint; and sage- and ricotta-filled cestini (“basket”) pasta with zucchini flowers and serrano ham. Almost everything used is grown on the property and any gaps are filled by local growers.
Co-owner James Broadway has developed a snappy wine list with a focus on natural styles by local growers (there’s also an biodynamic vineyard on-site). Cocktails are made using native botanicals and rainwater.
The star of the show is the open kitchen, marked at one end by a large antique stone ram’s head, which acts as an extension of the dining room. The working station sits in front of a large woodfired brick hearth, which handles most of the cooking.
The original building was restored by Hafner’s partner, architect Patrick Ness. His calm and pared-back aesthetic complements the restaurant’s relaxed atmosphere. Fresh botanicals cut from the front garden bring life to the soft colour palette, but it’s the raw timber that’s the real focus – with the jet-black kitchen bench, bar and private dining table, all crafted from ancient river redgum. In 2020, the fit-out was awarded Best Restaurant Design at the prestigious Eat Drink Design Awards.