Abacus Bar & Kitchen
Dylan Whitmore grew up around hospitality – his parents ran a cafe in Valla Beach, NSW and he opened his own bar at the age of 21. Not only that, it was a bar in northern China.
Abacus is the first time he has tried breakfast, lunch and dinner under one roof. And some roof it is – 7.5 metres high. The former Westpac Bank has been transformed with a palette of concrete, timber and marble by Architects EAT. Sub-tropical plants are littered throughout in a nod to Whitmore’s hometown on the NSW coast. The room centres around a strikingly tall fig tree.
The brunch menu includes the usual suspects with a personal twist – instead of smashed avo, it’s avocado wedges served with pumpkin croquettes. Tim Tams for breakfast are acceptable when they’re served with buckwheat and chia crepes, berries, clotted cream, saffron pear and ganache. The bar is high in Melbourne, but with ex-Top Paddock chef Chris Connolly at the helm, diners are in good hands.
Dinner, served Wednesday through to Sunday, is shared tapas-style cuisine, which includes housemade honeycomb (there’s bees on the roof) with wood-fired toast and butter. There are also heartier wood-fired pizzas. Dare to be different and order the seafood pizza, with pickled octopus, clams and smoked trout wings.
Ingredients are almost all sourced from the Prahran Market around the corner, and meat comes from a butcher outside Ballarat who does cuts and sausages exclusively for Connelly. Otherwise, Abacus bakes its own bread, mills its own flour and does as much as possible in-house.
The Australian wine list has seven by the glass, and seven of each by the bottle with a focus on Victorian suppliers.