This sand-level restaurant occupies the entire ground floor of the rebuilt Stokehouse St Kilda. Families treat their kids to pizza and hot chips; groups of mates enjoy a few beers; couples share small plates and a bottle of wine.
While more casual in approach than the original Stokehouse Cafe (or Stokehouse Downstairs), Pontoon is a much sharper and sleeker operation. Much of the space is taken up by a huge bar, and the rest is occupied by an assortment of sand-and-earth-coloured tables and chairs, brightened by pastel-coloured menus.
In the open kitchen flames leap from the grill, licking whole baby snapper, king prawns, Moreton Bay bugs, octopus and hanger steak. There’s a wood-fired pizza oven, and snacky items such as braised ham hock and manchego croquettes.
Pontoon, in a way, could be Melbourne’s answer to the beach clubs of Bali (Potato Head, Motel Mexicola or Ku De Ta come to mind) with its great drinks and food, and boardwalk spirit. It’s open late every day, and there are DJs on weekend evenings.