Magnificent, resplendent, palatial, ornate – no number of adjectives really do justice to the Nomad Group’s restaurant Reine. The grand 140-seater sits in the Cathedral Room inside the former Melbourne Stock Exchange – an opulent heritage space featuring stained glass windows, Gothic vaulted ceilings, limestone walls and solid granite columns.
Dual bars, each occupying a long side of the rectangular room, are Reine’s defining features. The red marble cocktail bar to the right is reserved for walk-ins who want cocktails stirred right in front of them. The bookable raw bar to the left is for people who want Pacific and Sydney rock oysters shucked right in front of them. Walk through the church-y back doors and you’re in the courtyard that connects Reine to eight-seat wine bar La Rue.
Executive chef Jacqui Challinor (Nomad Sydney) leads the ritzy menu, which weaves together Australian ease, French food and American go-largery. There’s a lobster cocktail; an ever-changing seafood platter for two; and caviar with crème fraîche and tempura-battered kombu (seaweed).
Mains could be duck-neck-sausage cassoulet, calamari with herby Café de Paris butter or mushroom pithivier with a bechamel-like sauce. Yet the vast ironbark-burning grill is the heart of the kitchen and menu alike. In addition to whole fish and half ducks, it fires six cuts of steak, the largest weighing in at one kilogram. Naturally, the beef comes from some of Australia’s best farmers: Rangers Valley, O’Connor and Blackmore.
And Reine very much has wines sorted. The 700-strong list is drawn mostly from Australia, France and America. While familiar local names like Wine by Farr, Ten Minutes by Tractor and Lethbridge are well represented, Reine is a rare chance to taste America’s west coast in a way that’s rare in Australia – at a price. The list’s 100 American bottles sit mostly at $200 or more, but include acclaimed cabernet sauvignon producers like Mayacamas, Mt Brave, Lokoya and Cardinale. Many of these are poured by the glass, using a Coravin system.
Once you’ve finished your steak, ask for the cheese trolley piled with Maker & Monger’s best stinkers, or return to the menu for a dark chocolate, espresso and caramel tart or salted honey petit choux with quince and white chocolate.
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