Brenton Grove is clearly attached to this end of town. He’s been at The Bird since day dot and has just opened Young Love Mess Hall next door. While the latter cuts a distinctive, mostly-black figure at the bottom of William Street, what’s not as obvious are the four years of hard graft getting it open.
“We’d get asked multiple times a week if we could hire out the Bird to people,” says Grove.
They’d always decline as it would mean displacing too many regulars, but the desire to provide a communal event space – where food would be more than an afterthought – continued to grow.
Grove had originally secured a lease for what would eventually become The Standard, but when the owners of Penang Food Restaurant put 175 William Street on the market it’s as if the stars aligned. Almost. Lengthy delays meant the kitchen wasn’t completed until mid-2015 (fun fact: it has been serving food to the Bird since) with the venue opening more than a year later.
Young Love Mess Hall was designed to be visually inviting and unpretentious, with an open frontage that projects the bustling street-vibe inside. “Northbridge is such a family-friendly spot in the daytime … Why not make the most of that vibrancy?” says Grove.
The interior brings the outside in. A giant prickly pear, tiled in colourful mosaic, greets patrons at the restaurant entrance. Vines hang from two central skylights, offsetting the “man-cave” black walls, and potted cacti are strewn throughout the dining room. Blink and you might feel you’re in a life-size terrarium.
Chef Steele Greenland (ex-Bivouac, Duende, Ace Pizza) has put together an accessible, cosmopolitan menu. The “bread and schmaltz” starter – half butter, half duck fat – speaks to American-Jewish deli culture. An otherwise traditional Galician Octopus features an Asian-leaning purple-yam puree. The “Viet-charcuterie” board sees all the usual banh mi suspects laid-out on a cheeseboard (chicken liver pate, too). The sighting of Choc Top ice-creams on the menu will please movie buffs, although flavours such as native plum show the dessert is nothing like the cineplex standard.
“If we can encourage diners to be more hands-on with their food, the more at home they will feel,” says Greenland.
To the drinks side of things: the draft beers are all local with Eastern States offerings by the bottle. Cocktails are relaxed and listed without names, just their ingredients. A tight list of reds and whites reads and drinks well, with or without food.
Young Love Mess Hall
175 William Street, Northbridge
Tue - Sun: 12pm - 11pm