Two Aussies and a Scot walk into a bar. Then, they decided to open one.
Steven Nelson, Joe Durrant and Mark Protheroe had known each other for a while before opening their bistro and bottle shop, The Recreation, in January 2017.
Nelson and Durrant worked together in Scotland 10 years ago, while Durrant and Protheroe crossed paths at Grossi Florentino, where Protheroe was an acclaimed sommelier, and Durrant the restaurant manager.
Despite their fine-dining pedigree, they kept it simple with The Recreation – a local bistro with an expansive bottle shop and the option to BYO. If you don’t fancy any of the Australian, French and Spanish wines available, you can bring your own for a $20 corkage fee.
Nelson has previously cooked at Bistro Gitan and Jacques Reymond and some of the dishes tilt French. There’s a Gruyere fondue sauce in a dish with sautéed spätzle and charred broccoli, and pommes mousseline with housemade sausage. Some plates have a broader Mediterranean influence that make use of a custom-made barbeque (think smoked and crispy eggplant and wood grilled calamari) and others feel more South American, including a Spanish mackerel ceviche and flatiron steak with chimichurri.
The 1870s building was once home to the Recreation Hotel, and more recently housed Charlie’s Restaurant. The new tenants have retained the original exterior and exposed brick walls inside, and even kept some of the tables and chairs – now sanded back and stained – from the old owners. Adding some contemporary North Fitzroy to the space, there are two large murals by street artist Shaun Lu feature in the wine room and bistro.